SPORTS >>NP expects better play from ’06-07 hoopsters
By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor
North Pulaski boys basketball coach Raymond Cooper doesn’t know exactly what to expect from this team this year. After suffering through a bad season in his first year as the head Falcon, Cooper is understandably cautious in making predictions. He does expect a much better showing than the two-win season of a year ago.
“We’ve just got a little more to work with, we’ve got a year of experience and we’re not all learning a brand new system,” Cooper said. There’s a renewed focus with this team too. They’ve become good practice players. They’re working hard all the time and all that’s going to make us a better team this year.”
Only one starter returns from last year’s Falcons, but it’s a big one. Leading scorer and senior Quinn Cooper, 6-foot-1, will start at the point. He’ll be joined outside by fellow senior Tony Glass, 5-9, who would have started more last year if not slowed by injury for much of the season. Rod Banks, 6-1, is the other guard in the starting lineup.
The middle will be manned by youth. Sophomores Carlos Donley, 6-6, and Brandon Hudson, 6-2, will play the post positions, although Donley is the only true post player on the team.
“Really we’re going to put a center, a point guard, and three guys that pretty much do the same thing,” Cooper said. “We’re going to push the ball as much as we can this year. That’s my style and this year we have the personnel to do it with.”
Those five are the players that would start if NP played today. The Falcons don’t play until Nov. 21. Cooper’s varsity bench will go 12 deep, and he says he will use everybody.
“We’re going to have some depth that I feel like we can count on,” Cooper said. “I have 12 I’m putting on the varsity roster and they’re all going to play.”
Jordan Anderson and Stanley Appleby are sophomores that can come off the bench and run the point well. There will even be two freshmen playing varsity ball.
DaQuan Bryant is a guard-forward transfer from Ridge Road. Aaron Cooper is a 5-8 point guard that can score well also. Juniors Cliff Harrison, 6-2, Ridge Williams, 6-1 and 6-0 Wesley Louis will also see lots of playing time.
“We’re pretty good athletically,” Cooper said. “We’ve got speed. We don’t have a lot of size, but we’re not small. We all run between 5-10 and 6-2, with one bigger than that and a couple smaller. But we can all go pretty good.”
Donley was the only player that concerned Cooper in the speed and stamina department, but he says he is amazed at the amount of dedication and work that big sophomore has shown since last year.
“We’ve got good senior leadership this year, but I tell you I’m really surprised by what Carlos has done,” Cooper said. “We talked last year. I told him I have one big man. I can either slow 11 guys down for one, or he can work to play with those 11. Since then he’s been the first one on the floor, the last to leave. He’s put in extra conditioning work on his own. He’s got his grades up. He’s just been a great and he’s come 1000 miles from where he was as a freshman.”
Q. Cooper is still the man teams will key on, at least to start the season. Coach Cooper expects that to change.
“Last least year teams figured out he was the only guy we had that was a scorer,” Cooper said. “That’s not going to be the case this year. I can envision nights where nobody scores in double figures in a win. But his scoring may not drop that much overall. Teams are going to have to guard everybody this year, and he’s going to get better looks. Everybody will I hope.”
The Falcons will press a lot this year out of several different sets, which one will mostly depend on the opponent.
“We’ve worked on a lot of different variations of presses,” Cooper said. “We can go man or run zone traps. A lot of that will depend on the style that we’re up against. We’re going to press though. You can count on that.”
The Falcons join a different conference this year. The 5A-East is very strong at the top, but not as balanced from top to bottom as the old Southeast. Despite coming off a horrible season, Cooper says his team’s goal is to be at the top.
“Our goal is to win it,” Cooper said. “Greene County Tech is probably the class of the group right now. They got everybody back from a team that came really close to winning it all last year. Bly-theville is always good. They never have a down year. Batesville is big and I think Wynne is going to be right there. We hope, we’re planning on North Pulaski being right there too.”