Different paths, goals for Rams basketball teams
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 1:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 1:04 p.m.
With a new season underway, the Eastside boys and girls basketball teams are ready to compete for district championships this season.
Dec. 6, 7:30 p.m., at Belleview.*
Dec. 11, 7:30 p.m., at Palatka.*
Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m., at Santa Fe.
Dec. 22, 8 p.m., at Williston.
Dec. 26-29, TBA, at Hitchcock Challenge at Santa Fe High School.
Jan. 3, 7:30 p.m., at North Marion.*
Jan. 5, 8 p.m., vs. Miami Norland in the Dante Anderson Memorial Classic.
Jan. 10, 7:30 p.m., vs. Palatka.*
Jan. 12, TBD, Super Classic Showcase at Eastside.
Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m., at P.K. Yonge.
Jan. 18, 7:30 p.m., vs. GHS at Santa Fe College.
Jan. 19, TBA, at Edward Waters College Shoot-Out in Jacksonville.
Jan. 22, 7:30 p.m., vs. Belleview.*
Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m., vs. North Marion.*
Jan. 26, TBA, at Bobcat Shoot-Out at Buchholz.
Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m., at Newberry.
Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m., vs. Bradford.
Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m., vs. GHS at Santa Fe College.
Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m., vs. Union County (Senior Night).
Feb. 8-9, TBA, District Championship Tournament in Belleview.
LADY RAMS SCHEDULE
Dec. 6, 7 p.m., vs. Belleview.*
Dec. 10, 7 p.m., vs. P.K. Yonge.
Dec. 11, 7 p.m., vs. Palatka.*
Dec. 13, 7 p.m., at Santa Fe.
Dec. 17, 7:30 p.m., at Bradford.
Dec. 21-22, TBA, Lady Raider Classic at Santa Fe.
Jan. 3, 7 p.m., at North Marion.*
Jan. 8, 7 p.m., vs. The Rock.
Jan. 10, 7 p.m., at Palatka.
Jan. 12, TBA, vs. Tallahassee Florida High in P.K. Yonge Classic at P.K. Yonge.
Jan. 14, 7 p.m., at P.K. Yonge.
Jan. 15, 7 p.m., at Belleview.*
Jan. 17, 7 p.m., vs. GHS.
Jan. 22, TBA, vs. Jacksonville University Christian.
Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m., at Buchholz.
Jan. 25, 7 p.m., vs. Santa Fe (Senior Night).
Jan. 29, TBA, District Semi-final at Belleview.
Feb. 1, TBA, District Final at Belleview.
* Denotes district games.
The boys will be led by coach Pop Williams, who is in his 17th year as head coach of the Rams, and the Lady Rams will be led by first-year coach Lance Radford. Both coaches said they have the talent to win the District 6-5A championship. However, they will have to travel different paths to accomplish their goals.
Williams said his team will have to develop chemistry among the younger and older players on the team to reach its goal of repeating as district champions and making it to the Final Four in Lakeland.
"I think this team is going to be very good," Williams said. "These guys are very quick, disciplined and they are very good kids. I really enjoy coaching these kids."
Williams said this year's team is more talented than last year's team (25-5) that lost at home in a regional final game to Brooksville Nature Coast Tech with a trip to the final four on the line. As usual, Williams had to wait until football season was over to get his full roster together. Returning players who also played on the football team include seniors Sir Jackson, Tim Norman and Jamari Walker, and juniors Seth Brown and Barry Johnson.
Brown, Jackson and Johnson were starters last year, and Norman is a transfer point guard from Gainesville High School who Williams said will make the team better because of his ball handling, defensive, leadership and scoring skills.
Williams said he is also expecting great things from senior guard Lovonte Pittman, a transfer from Buchholz, sophomore forward Thomas Lundy, junior forward JaQuan Strawder and sophomore Jonas Walker. Williams also said he has several other sophomores on the team who he expect to contribute as well. He said playing underclassmen is a key to the success of his program because it ensures he has experienced players every year. The Rams make it to the state playoffs almost every year, and won the Class 5A state championship in 2006. Williams said another factor that is a big part of his success is that he gets rid of the "riff raft and focus on the guys" who want to play for Eastside.
Williams said the strength of this year's team will be defense and running the floor.
"This team has more athletes than last year's team, especially at the guard position," Williams said. "We have so many kids that can pressure the ball, and what I have to do is teach them to rebound because we can go with different lineups that will have a lot of speed on defense, so that means we are going to be scattered around sometimes, and the forwards are going to have to rebound."
Radford said his team will have to protect the basketball and limit turnovers, as well as adapt to his system as the season goes on for the team to compete for a district championship.
He said his team learned a lot about what it is going to take to get to the next level in a preseason game against GHS last month. He said the team responded in their next preseason game against Santa Fe High School last month by playing with more energy and confidence.
"Against Santa Fe, they knew what we were doing offensively, and how we wanted to attack, but they are still adjusting to what I want to do offensively," Radford said, adding that his team is making progress with every practice.
Radford said the Rams will be led by senior point guard Tiara Lundy and Jurnee Pettigrew, who will play small and power forward.
"They are our seniors, and they are going to have to lead us from beginning to end," Radford said.
"Not only do they have to score for us, they have to be the vocal leaders, and they have to be good defensively."
Besides Lundy and Pettigrew, he also expect significant contributions to the success of the team from sophomores guard A'nikeyawna "KeKe" Barber and sophomore center Shadayzia Bullock.
He said Bullock, once she becomes more confident and sure of her ability on the court, will be able to dominate games offensively and defensively.
Radford said the team expects to compete for the district championship.
"That's one of our goals," he said. "We're going into the season knowing that we control whether or not we win the district, and we feel very good about that."
Radford said his focus is on developing a great defensive team that will be able to keep other teams from scoring a lot of points.
Pettigrew, who has drawn interest from the Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, Santa Fe College, University of North Florida in Jacksonville, and other colleges, said she is going to help her younger teammates focus in practice on doing what they are supposed to do to the help the team get better.
"It's a time to play, and it's a time to be serious, and when we are in practice, it's time to be serious," Pettigrew said.
"It's about being serious and putting a (district championship) banner on the wall."
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.