From Staff Reports
Take a peek inside the Unicoi County High School boys’ basketball locker room and you’ll see a sign that says “players play but TOUGH players win.”
That pretty well sums up the philosophy of head varsity coach John Good, as he leads his team into the upcoming season. Good leads a team that includes assistant coaches Michael Smith, C.J. Good, Logan Lyle, and Mike Boyd. Together they have worked overtime to prepare their team for the challenges that lie ahead.
A crucial aspect of their strategy is consistent, rigorous focus on the basics of the game. Training began with spring practice, followed by camps at Maryville College, Middle Tennessee State University, and UNC Asheville for the varsity players and an ETSU-based camp for the freshman and junior varsity players.
These training sessions instilled in UCHS players the fundamental skills every basketball players needs: running, passing, jumping, dribbling, and, of course, shooting. Physical conditioning was also a big emphasis at the camps, with group workout sessions designed to build a solid core of strength, flexibility, and endurance in each player.
Another essential quality for sporting success is teamwork, a topic on which Good has strong opinions. When asked what style of play fans can expect at the upcoming games, he said “fast, tough, and unselfish.”
Good’s message is clear. There’s no room for prima donnas in the world of UCHS basketball. Each player uses his particular strengths for the good of the entire team.
Last season’s 9-24 record gives the Blue Devils ample opportunities for improvement this time around. For Good, the secret to future success lies in making the most of the present.
“We don’t have expectations, nor do we make excuses,” Good said. “We don’t talk about wins and losses. We talk about competing. If our players compete to their maximum ability, then the scoreboard will take care of itself.”
Just because the Blue Devils are a team doesn’t mean that individuals are unimportant. Each player has a vital role and an opportunity to excel.
“Brock Thompson and Brett Lingerfelt have produced on the varsity level,” said Good. “We expect them to continue doing so.”
Good also mentioned that this past summer was a time of growth and improvement for many of his players.
“I’m really excited to coach this bunch,” he said.
As young athletes mature, they gain the edge of experience while still enjoying the raw energy of youth. Part of the process of cultivating success is expecting each player to contribute in some way. This is another point that Good stressed in his comments.
“If we put a player on the floor, we expect him to have a positive impact,” he said. “Those who don’t make it to the floor are expected to have an impact on our practice sessions.”
Every basketball team has its particular strengths. For the Blue Devils, their outstanding ability is shooting the basketball. This, in turn, involves a number of specialized athletic qualities, including balance, focus, and consistency.
Nurturing these abilities is what basketball is all about. Good and his assistants are helping to forge the future, not only of Unicoi County but of our nation as a whole.
Speaking of Unicoi County, Good was outspoken about the community in which he works and coaches.
“Unicoi County is a special place,” he said proudly, “and I have told this to everyone. Our tradition of local support is what every coach and player desires. There is a tradition here that is second to none.”
Last year the Blue Devils made it to regional quarterfinals. Their conference schedule for this season includes games against Elizabethton, Happy Valley, Johnson County, Sullivan Central, Sullivan East, and Sullivan South. When asked about the Blue Devils’ upcoming opponents, Good was blunt.
“We cannot afford to take any night off,” he said. “We must compete each and every night.”
This competitive spirit in no way diminishes Good’s respect for the Three Rivers Conference. “It’s an outstanding conference with good teams and players and great coaches,” he said.
The 2019-20 UCHS varsity basketball squad includes seniors Caleb Adkins, Nicholas Hensley, Phoenix Holt, Brett Lingerfelt, Nicholas Lynch and Boone Reed. Juniors on the team are Mason Barcel, Jordan Bridges, Zachary Hopson, Robbie O’Dell and Brock Thompson. Bryson Peterson is a sophomore on the team. Freshmen players are Grant Hensley and Lucas Slagle.
The Blue Devils opened the season last week with three victories, including two on Thursday, Nov. 21.
First, the team defeated Volunteer, 63-56, on the road. Thompson scored 15 and had 4 rebounds in the win. O’Dell scored 14 and had 5 assists. Slagle had a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Peterson scored 9.
Later Thursday evening, they defeated University High, 78-74, in Erwin. Thompson scored 32 and had 5 rebounds in the win. O’Dell had 11. Adkins scored 10 and had 5 rebounds and 6 assists. Slagle scored 8 and had 17 rebounds. Peterson scored 7. Lingerfelt had 5 assists.
Playing at Johnson County on Saturday, Nov. 22, UCHS defeated Mount Mission (Virginia), 62-50. Thompson scored 20 and had 6 assists and 6 rebounds. O’Dell had 9 and had 7 rebounds. Adkins scored 8 and had 6 rebounds. Lingerfelt scored 7. Slagle scored 6 and had 8 rebounds.
The Blue Devils opened play in a Thanksgiving tournament being hosted by Sullivan East on Tuesday, Nov. 26, against South Greene after The Erwin Record’s press deadline for this issue. They are scheduled to play Unaka in the tournament on Friday, Nov. 29, at 10:30 a.m. and KACHEA at 6 p.m. They will also play Hampton at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 30.
The Blue Devils will travel to Cloudland on Tuesday, Dec. 3, then to North Buncombe High School (North Carolina) on Wednesday, Dec. 4. On these days, the junior varsity team will play at 5 p.m., followed by the varsity at 8 p.m.