“Against Pepperell I don’t think we communicated on the court defensively the way that we communicate during practice. I feel with the crowd and atmosphere of having first game jitters that we forgot some of the most basic fundamentals of basketball,” said head boys’ basketball coach, Jon-Michael Nickerson.
While the Eagles won the scrimmage game 81-32, there were still some mistakes. Nickerson said they can all be cleaned up with practice time and more game experience. Nickerson said the good thing was everyone played with intensity and effort.
“We don’t want to be peaking right now though, so I am quite pleased,” Nickerson said.
The team is coming off a 14-12 season and third-place subregion finish in 2011-12.
This year the boys’ varsity team has seven seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and three freshmen. Excel Christian also has a junior varsity and the first ninth grade team in the school’s 19-year history.
They will face an expanded region 6-A that includes such state powers as Whitefield Academy and Southwest Atlanta Christian.
Nickerson named five players as his key returners this season: Myles Lawson, Phillip Looney, Chaz Phillips, Ashton Roach and Tucker West.
As the Eagles get ready to dive into their season, Nickerson said he noticed a few things his team needs to work on if they are to be successful this season.
“Our team needs to work on rebounding better, communicating on defense better and running a more fluid and smooth half court offense,” Nickerson said.
The biggest problem Nickerson has noticed with the rebounding is the reliance on the team’s best rebounder, junior Jalen McKeller.
“I feel that some guys sometimes think, ‘Oh, since Jalen is in the game that I don’t have to rebound hard because I know he’s got it.’ Well, we can’t think like that and I have to be the one to hold them accountable for it,” Nickerson said.
Unlike most teams, Nickerson and the Eagles have chosen not to make any goals for the season as he feels the team could get too focused on long term goals rather than the immediate situation.
“Teenage kids can often have unrealistic goals and I’m not saying we can’t reach some very high goals, but I want us to take it game by game. When you have a group that is talented like our team is then they can often get focused on “down the road” dates and what [assistant coach Nic Tyler] and I want them to worry about is the next step,” Nickerson said.
“I want them worrying about representing their school with pride, playing the game as hard as possible and staying together. If they do those few things then I believe we’ll be sitting in a good spot.”