Eagles look to seniors for leadership
GREENCASTLE -- Sitting at 0-2 on the season, the South Putnam boys basketball team is still trying to find its footing. Before the season head coach Micah Elliott was optimistic for the season because of the work he saw from them in practice.
"You can see the kids working hard," Elliott said. "They come to practice and they work hard. We're getting a lot of things accomplished just because of the mindset that they have. I think they learned it from baseball -- they won a sectional -- and from football."
Elliott hopes that the success the players have experienced through their athletic careers in other sports trickles over into the basketball season.
"The core group of kids that go from sport to sport have been successful," he said. "They know what it takes to work hard. When these kids were freshmen, they didn't have a lot of juniors and seniors in front of them to show them how to work hard. I think that's where South struggled for years, because there weren't examples they could follow.
"Now these seniors have set strong examples for these younger kids -- even junior high kids -- and they've learned how to work hard. They know what it takes to be successful and they carried it into football and now they're carrying it into basketball and hopefully we see the fruits of their labor," he added.
The Eagles take the court this season with a renewed sense of confidence and have the athletic prowess to make new things happen.
"There are a lot of things we can do this year that we couldn't do last year," Elliott explained. "Coach Burgess has done wonders in the weight room and we're bigger and faster and stronger. It's our advanced P.E. classes and it's agilities that we've done year round. During the summer, before school and we do them after practice and we believe it what we do and the kids have bought into the philosophy. We feel better about ourselves.
"We feel that when we go out on the floor, we're going to be as athletic as any team we play. And that's going to help us out," he said.
In addition to his four seniors, Elliott is looking for some key underclassmen to step up big this season. He acknowledged the team had a productive off-season and the bond between the teammates is an added advantage for his squad.
"They've played with each other and played in the system and they know what to expect," Elliott said. "They know what to expect when they come to practice and they're working hard and, I think, they believe in each other.
"We have good team chemistry. These kids genuinely like each other and that's important," he continued. "They hang out together, they joke around with each other, but at the same time, they get onto each other. As a coach, I haven't had to get on kids so far. They take care of the discipline things on themselves.
"My job is to refocus them and lead them, but they are doing the job as a team. We've talked as a coaching staff with them, this is their team and they're going to take them as far as they want to go. We can show them the way, but they're going to ultimately have to take themselves there," he said.
Elliott stated prior to the season, the early records don't really matter much. Last season, they began strong, but weren't able to sustain it. He believes the team will be able keep things moving in the right direction once they find their way. He discussed how he and his coaching staff facilitate that process.
"You maintain it through practice and you keep challenging the kids," he said. "You can't be complacent. If your team can handle it, you challenge them every day. You challenge them with different drills so it doesn't become mundane and boring and they don't want to come to practice.
"As a coach, and our coaching staff works really hard at it, but being involved in it. There are new things we're throwing at them and you have (a limited time) to get ready, but we need to challenge them every day in practice. And I think the kids want that challenge. They want to be good -- they're ready to be good and I think this is the year we're going to be," he concluded.
South Putnam will take on Greencastle in the second game of the Putnam County Classic at 8 p.m.