Watching as players took the floor for practice, Decatur High boys basketball coach Jamie Lee pointed to the obvious.
The Red Raiders don’t have much height.
True. Very true.
Na’Vante Williams, a 6-foot-2 center, is the tallest player on Decatur’s roster with playing experience, and he wasn’t even a starter last season.
Oh well. Time to adjust.
Which is exactly what Decatur coach Lee is doing.
Decatur may be missing a dominant post player, but that hasn’t forced Lee to taper expectations.
Adjusting to personnel has been a prominent theme.
“It’s been refreshing,” Lee said. “I might have a certain philosophy for coaching, but I have to adjust based on the players who walk through our doors.”
The change in personnel wasn’t a surprise. Decatur’s coaching staff has been prepping for it — and they believe a good plan in is place.
In these days, dunks will be rare. But 3-pointers? They will be often.
“When most of these guys were (junior varsity) players, because we weren’t very big, we started tweaking our offense a little bit,” Lee said. “As a coach, it’s a refreshing experience. There’s no pressure on our players because we’re starting from fresh. Everybody is starting from fresh.”
Gone is Darius Nelson, an all-state forward who was selected as the Daily’s Class 4A-6A player of the year this past season. The Red Raiders lost eight seniors who played significant minutes.
Williams will replace in Nelson as Decatur’s post presence, but he’s likely won’t be the Red Raiders’ offensive go-to player.
Sharp-shooting guards like Chandler Boy are being asked to do more.
“It’s exciting — almost like having a new child,” Lee said. “It’s a different brand of basketball than we played last year. We’ve had to make a lot of adjustments, but this group, it’s a good group of players who want to win. It’s going to be a different team, but it’s a fun team to coach.”
Mariah Mort caught a pass on the win and drained a 3-pointer.
The moment in practice drew praise from Decatur’s coaching staff. Not that anything was new.
At least not this year.
Putting the ball through the hoop hasn’t been a problem for Decatur’s girls basketball team since practice began in October.
A promising change from last season.
“There’s going to be some nights where we’re going to be able to make some baskets we couldn’t make last season,” Decatur coach Brad Boy said. “Every girl has the green light to take the shot they work on practice, and every player understands that when they’re open, they can shoot. We worked a lot during the offseason our shooting, and I expect us to be better.”
It’s been a long offseason for Decatur. Three starters from last season’s team are gone, but a young, and aggressive, group is making a transition onto the Red Raiders’ roster.
Mort, arguably one of the best female athletes at Decatur is back, and Boy has high hopes for the Red Raiders senior. Decatur also returns forward Constance Steele, last season’s second-leading scorer, along with point guard Oniesha Hampton, a sophomore who had a great offseason, according to the Red Raiders coaching staff.
“She had a great offseason,” Boy said. “She matured a lot and has become a much better player. Everyone on this team is working hard to what we can do.”
Despite having so many new players, Boy believes Decatur can be an improved team, especially on defense. The Red Raiders held teams to 42 points per game last season.
“Being good on defense is always a priority for us,” Boy said. “We spend more time working on defense than anything else, and that’s why we were in most games last season. Being good on defense is something we take a lot of pride in.”