Hatley’s new first-year basketball coach Jake Smith isn’t entirely unfamiliar with his new team.
He’s faced them the last few seasons from the other bench, coming from former division rival Choctaw County where he was an assistant coach the last three years.
“I’m very excited to be here and ready to get to work. I know these guys because I have played against them last year and the last couple of years,” Smith said. “I have seen some good things and what they can do, and I just want to build off that, play hard and play defense. That’s what I like to be is a defensive coach, so I think bringing that aspect to Hatley, they do some good things on the offensive end so I want to make their defense intense.”
Hatley is Smith’s first head coaching job and second stop after being at Choctaw County. He is a 2014 graduate of Southeast Lauderdale.
Smith said his coaching philosophy consists of preaching 100 percent effort all the time and putting defense first.
“I’m more focused on defense than I am on offense because I think there’s going to be nights where you’re not going to score the ball very well. There’s nights where you’re not going to be able to score everything,” he said. “Every night though, you can come in and play defense, and that’s my thing is you can play defense, no matter what. Even if you’re not a good offensive player, you can play defense. You can take a charge, dive on the floor and do the extra things that it takes on defense to be good.”
Hatley graduates three senior starters from this past season’s team that came close to making the playoffs, but Smith likes that he has some underclassmen coming back.
“I know they lost some really good guys, but they have some guys in the 10th grade that played against us and started that made some really big shots that kept them in the game against us,” SMith said. “I look forward to being able to build off that because they are so young and do have young talent that we can build off of and grow throughout the four years. They’re not going to just be here for a year and then gone. It will be something that we can build off of and maybe in the next couple of years be good.”
Hatley’s new junior high program will also feed into the high school team, and Chris Moody will head that up, in addition to being Smith’s assistant with the high school team.
“That’s what I’m most excited about is having a bunch of young guys,” Smith said. “I looked up there, and there’s probably 50 kids up there and that’s exciting with that many kids wanting to play basketball, it makes the other guys better because they know their position can be taken at any time.”
The Tigers’ summer basketball schedule has been made, but Smith will focus on practice and potentially add more games if the opportunity presents itself.
“There are some guys that don’t play other sports, so we are going to work out with them before, then practice, and do some individual work. I think the summer is used to get individuals better because the better they are individually, the better we are going to work as a team,” Smith said. “If everybody can handle the ball, shoot and do little things like that, then we will be able to handle pressure and do it in a game. We’re going to play a couple of games, and I might also call around and see who else is playing because I want to see those guys play too and also know how to coach them because every team is different.
Hatley’s division changes up a little bit, losing some teams due to reclassification and adding others as well.
“It’s going to be a really tough division, one of the best divisions in the North, especially this year coming in with Nettleton and Amory. I know about all of those teams from playing against them and scouting them,” Smith said. “I’ve watched film on all of them. I know those teams will be good, but I’m excited for the challenge. I don’t ever want to back down or think that somebody else is better. I’m excited for it, and some of the games last year left a bad taste in my mouth, so I will be excited to get my own punch at them.”