STOCKBRIDGE — Basketball teams are gearing up once more for the second half of the season but one team that’s been used to success — is struggling to meet their previous goals.
Of course, factoring in the amount of talent that the Tigers had lost in 2018’s graduating class, that included Kavonte Ivery and many others, it was too be expected. However, that’s nothing for the new look program led by captain Davian Johnson.
“Last year our captain was Kavonte,” Johnson said. “I learned through him that I gotta use tough love with these guys. I have to hold them accountable for their mistakes.”
Johnson says that the problem that the team has faced this year has been experience. Unlike years past, the program had a number of experienced players in the right places to get the job done when the team is playing around big crowds. This year, that’s not the case and the Tigers are struggling.
That’s not the only thing that Johnson’s pointed out that the Tigers are ailing with this year.
“We are also struggling on the height part of the game,” Johnson said. “Rebounds play a big part in our record as well.”
Adapting a new style of play for 2018-19 has been something that Stockbridge has also had to overcome. Rather than the style that’s guided the program to their best three year stretch under head coach Rodney Latham — this year was about finding the teams’ overall identity.
“Last year Tigers had a different style of play,” Johnson said. “We are in the process of finding our identity. Our identity right now is to play hard for 32minutes. We hang our hats on our defense too.”
Of course, that’s not where Johnson’s role stops. He’s also been tasked with pulling the fledgling program together at the student level.
“I’ve taken my team out on team events to try and get us closer,” Johnson said. “I’ve opened the gym up to my team to allow us to have fun and put your brother first. We have a long way to go but this team shows spurts of greatness so I know it’s in us.”
With the struggles that the Tigers have had, Johnson knows criticism comes through him first as a leader. But that’s nothing to him because he doesn’t feed into the opinions of others outside of family or his coaches.
“I do take into consideration what people say — but it really goes through one ear and out the other,” Johnson said. “I expect the fans to give me input.”
Stockbridge went on a four-game losing skid over the past few weeks of the season but if that was ever a reason to shy away from the game, Johnson took that in stride entirely and went back to the gym to continue working.
“I feel like if you get in the gym, your confidence increases,” Johnson said. “I bring different workout partners and some old college friends every once in a while to give this group of guys top notch game-like experiences. I watch film a lot to see where we can improve.”
Rankings are definitely on people’s minds as the Tigers last year were consistently ranked among the rest of Class AAAAA. Of course, its been weeks since the Tigers were ranked and Johnson doesn’t blame anyone for them not being ranked.
“We haven’t proved ourselves yet. Our only problem is rebounds and we will turn that around,” Johnson said. “We will turn this season around and we will not lay down. We will keep fighting and be a nightmare for whoever plays us.”