Leader Blues

Monday, December 03, 2007

SPORTS >>Red Devils still have big goals

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

As far as wins and losses go, the Jacksonville boys basketball team has not fared too well so far this season. The Red Devils are currently 0-3, and suffered their worst setback Tuesday night, losing 80-76 at North Pulaski in a game that wasn’t that close until the very end of the fourth quarter.

The two previous losses were nailbiters to two of the most storied basketball programs in the state, LR Hall and LR Central. Both of those games went down to the wire with Jacksonville losing each by two points.

Tuesday night could have worked like a coming out party of sorts. The opponent was a smaller school with some very obvious disadvantages in size. The result though, was the home team out-working, out-hustling and out-executing their bigger guests.

Even with the disappointment of the first three games, Jacksonville coach Victor Joyner doesn’t see any reason for his squad, or its fans, to being worrying.

Jacksonville most definitely on a slower pace this year than any previous Joyner-coached team has even been on.
After last season, when many underclassmen became lackadaisical in class and discipline problems on and off the floor, Joyner instituted a more rigorous “character plan” that he has before.

For years, dating back to his days at North Pulaski, Joyner has had a plan in place that allows his to keep a close watch over his players when they are away from basketball.

That plan never got in the way of practice until this year, but Joyner isn’t regretful of the sacrifice.

“We’ve only practice between 45 minutes to about an hour and fifteen minutes,” Joyner said. “We’re behind where we would normally be. We’ve spent most of that time working on offense because we’ve got so many players that have never been out there before at this level.”

While it has slowed the process of producing a great basketball team, it has helped the process for which it was intended.
Team grade-point average is up while discipline problems are down, way down, in and out of school.

“That’s why we put this in place and the kids have responded to it,” Joyner said. “There hasn’t been any complaining or whining and crying about it. They’ve got their grades up and their acting like people who are representing this school and community should act. I’m more proud of that than I am upset about losing three games by a combined eight points.”

The team just began serious, intense defensive work this week. Joyner also says it will take some time for this group of players to come together as a team.

“This group has never played together before as a unit,” Joyner said. “We’ve got kids moved in from three places, kids in different grades trying to work together for the first time. Chemistry is something that usually takes time. They don’t all know each other real well, they don’t know each others’ styles or tendencies. It’s just going to take some time. I said over the summer it may take eight or nine games for us to even start playing like I hope we will.”

Despite the slow start, Joyner believes his team will be ready by the time it starts to count.

“The basketball aspect is secondary right now,” Joyner said. “Some people may be concerned about that, but I know the bigger picture, and that is we’re going to get them there. I’ve been 0-7 before made it deep in the state tournament. We’re going to get there.”