Gators reload behind rising young players

Published 9:05 am Monday, November 9, 2015

Last season, Vicksburg High’s boys’ basketball team had good senior athletes but were unable to find the success coach Dellie Robinson wanted and finished with a 13-14 record.

The Gators have a solid foundation to start this season. The top two scorers, K.J. Murphy and Kirk Parker, who averaged 12 and 10 points a game respectively, return.

Robinson looks to build around them and a few other pieces as the Gators try to make their way back to the Class 5A state tournament.

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“We’ve got a lot of pieces in place and hopefully we can just build on that,” Robinson said. “If we can get some good guard play and get the ball out to Kirk, certainly we can be successful. We always go into the season with high expectations. We’re looking to do well this year.”

Parker, who started as a freshman and is now entering his junior year, is a big, physical specimen who averaged 8.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks his sophomore season. Robinson wants to use Parker’s size to pound the ball inside and expects him to have a breakthrough year.

Parker has worked on his post offense and developed an array of moves to shake defenders and score.

“He’s got the drop-step down pat and he’s working on a little hook. He’s about 6-4 and every bit of 220,” Robinson said. “Then he’s athletic, he can run the floor and do a lot of things. He’s a pretty good defensive player. He’s not a great shot blocker, but a good post defense player.”

After losing players like Antonio Moore and Khris Walker, plus the scoring and defensive rebounding associated with them, Robinson is looking for Kardell English and Joe Thomas to step up and fill those voids. Robinson believes the athleticism of Raheam Moore and James Allen will be good additions, once they finish their obligations with the football team.

One thing Robinson has seen the Gators do well is move the ball, but he has concerns about the defense.

He wants the Gators to be aggressive on defense, trap opponents in the half-court and play a match-up zone. Offensively, Robinson wants to slow things down instead of the fast break, up-tempo style from a season ago.

“Defensively, we’re not where we want to be. Offensively we’re almost there with the concept of getting the ball to Kirk. Kirk’s going to be our No. 1 option. Once we get that down pat and everything else builds around Kirk, I think we’re going to be fine,” Robinson said.

For the Missy Gators, they look to be more balanced after losing only one starter to graduation. The majority of the team has returned and coach Barbara Hartzog has added a good group of sophomores, which will provide a base of talent.

Hartzog said her players have reached the point where they’re getting to learn their teammates and are now working on situations they previously panicked in. In Saturday’s season-opener at Germantown, for instance, the Missy Gators rallied from a seven-point deficit at halftime to win 50-45.

“If we had a set and it didn’t work, they didn’t know how to continue through it. They’d just stop, whereas now they know how to go ahead and continue through it and finish,” Hartzog said.

The Missy Gators are also more team-oriented and support each other this season, which provides for a better atmosphere.

Hartzog said chemistry is everything when it comes to winning and doesn’t look to just one player to carry the team.

“Our team is not based on one person, because you never know when something’s going to happen when that person’s out. Everybody has to be ready to go in, step up and take the position of somebody,” Hartzog said.

As a team, Hartzog wants to build confidence, as well as become a stronger unit. That was the case against Germantown, when four players scored at least eight points apiece.

“It’s not always the team with the highest score wins. A record doesn’t define a team,” she said. “I want them to believe in each other and believe in themselves and grow individually.”

Next game

Tuesday, 5 p.m.

South Pike at Vicksburg