When Amory coach Brian Pearson took on coaching both basketball teams, he knew it would make for a busy summer.
That was an understatement as both the Panthers and the Lady Panthers grinded through a hectic June that included tons of games on both sides.
“Altogether we have played a lot of basketball. It’s been a lot, but it’s been worth it. I think we have had two groups on both the girls’ and boys’ side that have had a lot of bodies and new people and new faces in certain positions that needed to grow and learn,” Pearson said. “When we look at the big picture, both groups had individuals that really had good summers that I think are going to be set up to have good seasons come November.”
Both teams have a standout senior player coming back but have been looking at developing the supporting cast around them.
For the Panthers, they will look to up the production around Isaiah Thompson, who averaged nearly 22 points a game as a junior.
“I think some guys around Isaiah are going to be ready to step up and take some of that load off,” Pearson said. “People know who Isaiah Thompson is, so we have to be able to put people on the floor around him that they have to recognize. Treshon (Hadley) is a guy who’s been in our program a few years who’s been coming on and understanding that maybe this is it for him as a senior. He’s got to ask some more of himself, so that we can be the best that we can be.”
On the girls’ side, Jhalia Small comes off a season when she averaged nearly a double-double a night and was able to rely on outgoing seniors Madison Wax, Lauren Haynes and Dashunae Fields.
“Jhalia has had a career up to this point where people know who she is. Around her are a lot of names and pieces that can step up and do some things,” Pearson said. “We have a huge junior class, and they’re going to have a lot of people who have played some, and there were a lot of injuries last year but they got to log more time this summer. They are getting used to playing with each other, playing with Jhalia, and there’s even a couple of pieces behind that junior class that I think will be in our rotation.”
Both teams will rely on their incoming junior and sophomore classes.
“On the boys’ side, Drew Keeton has played well, and we’re playing without two guys that started for us last season in Jay (Hampton) and James (Spratt),” Pearson said. “Some of our freshmen from last year that logged a lot of minutes like Charleston (Wallace) and Gray (Thornton), they have played significant minutes. Shaidon (McKinney) has had a good summer.”
For the Lady Panthers, there are six juniors that are working to make an impact either in the starting rotation or coming off the bench.
“Emma Kate (Wright) has put in a lot of work on her own. Amaya (Trimble) is another one we have asked to handle the ball for us a lot, and both of them have done a good job. Kimiya (Parks) and Jatavia (Smith) have done some good things,” Pearson said. “It’s getting that group back used to playing with each other because in the past, it’s like a few of them played at a time, and now they are all back on the floor playing a lot together for the first time since eighth grade. You can tell they are friends outside of basketball and have that connection, and hopefully we will be able to utilize that to our advantage.”
Pearson said the positive coming out of the summer is plenty of reliable options on both teams.
“The good news for Amory basketball is that we have some pieces we can do some things with. Once we get to figure out how all that puzzle needs to work, we have the chance to have a good season on both sides,” he said.
For the Panthers, Pearson said he wants to see his team commit to being more solid on the defensive end, and for the Lady Panthers, he’s working on running more plays.
“Effort is there at times, but we’re just not fundamentally sound on defense with the boys,” he said. “On the girls’ side, the organization is not there, and we have just maybe two plays that we have ran on offense. For my sake, a lot of the things we do with the boys and the girls will have to be somewhat similar, so for the girls, there’s a lot of stuff we still need to put in and log some more practice time working on those things. We just basically have a list of things that we know both groups need to work on when we get back to school. We have played so much this summer that we’re ready to get to some practices and hammer home some things that we just have seen over and over this summer that we’re not doing a good job of, whether it’s communication or switching screens or whichever it is.”
While both teams have hosted several days of summer league at Amory, the Panthers went to Nashville for a team camp and the Lady Panthers participated in one at Mississippi State. Pearson said both experiences were valuable for his teams.
“With the boys, we played a lot of teams from that Nashville area that really know how to play basketball. I thought that was a great experience for our guys just to see that style and level of play. With the girls, we went to Mississippi State and played some really good competition,” he said. “I thought on both sides, we got a really good mix of playing up with some tough competition that really put a hurting on us, and I thought we were also able to win enough to keep things interesting and keep the kids encouraged and looking forward to coming back in November and putting together two successful seasons. I think that’s the expectation on both sides, and I know it is for us coaches.”