Vikings retool with summer league work

Published 8:00 am Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Warren Central boys’ basketball team entered the summer at the beginning of a new era. An eight-man senior class from the team what went 22-7 and made it to the second round of the MHSAA Class 6A playoffs last season is gone, and it’s time for a new group to step up.

Coach Bruce Robinson said the goal for his team at this point in the summer was just to compete with effort, but they also managed to get a 43-26 victory over Vicksburg in their last outing on Monday. Forward Jabari Bowman led all scorers with 14 points.

“As the summer has gone on, we have gotten better,” Robinson said after the game. “The last time we played Vicksburg, they beat us over here, and we beat them today. We are trying to get better as we go out, but we haven’t had everybody at one given time.”

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Robinson knew it would take some time for his returning players to get acclimated to playing without the departed seniors, but he liked the progress he’d seen thus far. Getting them as much game experience in the brief one-month window when they’re allowed to practice and schedule scrimmages is beneficial.

“You’re not going to get four years of experience in six months, but what we try to do is play enough games this summer to where people could play,” Robinson said. “Because we have five seniors, and they’ve been in and out, some of the younger guys have gotten a chance to play. We’re coming along. The process looks good right now.”

Among those missing time this summer are seniors P.J. Mims, who competes in three sports; Jalen Glass, who is recovering from surgery on a torn ligament in his arm; and Chris Green, who is attending an engineering camp. Robinson praised the leadership of all three players, especially Mims.

Mims, who also plays football and baseball, played in Monday’s basketball game against Vicksburg and scored three points.

“I think P.J. Mims has been doing a great job with it. He communicates with the guys well,” Robinson said. “I noticed that about him last year. Toward the end of the year, he was really directing traffic, getting kids in spots, because we had some young players last year, and I think he’s doing a good job at it.”

Robinson also praised his other seniors, Jalen Curry and D’Arius Moore, for their leadership and said guard Daniel Smothers has taken some big steps this season. Robinson felt Smothers could be crucial for the Vikings from the perimeter, and that Bowman could have a huge impact in the middle.

“Daniel Smothers has been doing an enormous job for us, because we put him at point guard and he hasn’t played point guard a whole lot, so he’s doing really good,” Robinson said. “Jabari Bowman, what can I say about him? He’s about a walking double-double. As long as we have him, I think we have a puncher’s chance, though we did beat a couple of teams without him, so that’s encouraging.”

Warren Central hasn’t had a lot of time to practice so far this summer, so Robinson said he still wants to see his squad work on its defense and weak side rebounding.

“We’re a defensive-minded culture. It’s part of our program. It’s in our DNA,” Robinson said. “We’re not quite there yet. Defending and rebounding are two of the things we’re really going to harp on the rest of the summer as we get into our preseason practices.”