Trojan coach Tim Criswell just got the football players out on the court this week for the first time leading up to tonight’s 7:30 season opener at home against Oxford (Ala.), and he said there will be an adjustment period during the first few weeks of the season.
And while there are some question marks as to rotations and who will emerge into the more prominent roles, Criswell said it’s time to get the ball rolling toward a new year on the hardwood.
“It’s been good. We picked up an influx of guys from football. But the guys that are here, I think they’re ready to play. We’re going to try to mix the football guys in there the best we can,” Criswell said. “We’ve got a lot of unanswered questions. I mean, obviously, we lost six out of our top eight from last year. There’s a lot of guys that can step in there and be in that top eight or nine. It’s going to take a while. Hopefully, we’ve got a good enough mix here early that we can compete in games and stay in there and have a chance to win.”
Seniors Riley Criswell and Javarious Jackson are the most experienced players returning, with Riley Criswell enjoying a breakout season in 2011-12 en route to Times-Georgian Newcomer of the Year honors, while Jackson was usually the first player off the bench during his junior campaign.
After that, though, Carrollton will be relying on several newcomers to the varsity level, with some of the guys seeing spot time last season.
Tim Criswell is looking forward to seeing senior forward Byron McCall establishing himself as a force in the paint this year after patiently waiting for his time to crack the starting lineup.
“He’s a guy that probably should have played, could have played more than he did last year. But once we got in a rotation and things are going so well, it’s hard to mess with that. But Byron is a guy that’s been in the program and has worked his rear end off. He’s made himself a really good basketball player,” Tim Criswell said.
Along with McCall and Riley Criswell manning the post, the Trojans will also count on sophomore forward Montae Glenn to give quality minutes in the Carrollton frontcourt.
Junior guards Malik Sheppard and Trey Chivers and junior forward Will Hesterlee are a trio of football guys making the transition to the court, while guards Jarrel Boone, Marcus Henderson and K.J. Hill will also battle for playing time. Tim Criswell said he has a handful of sophomores that could also potentially see their fair share of varsity minutes.
“No kidding, I’ve got 16, 17 guys that I’d feel comfortable putting in a varsity game. I really do. Obviously, we can’t play that many, but we’ve got that many I would feel comfortable putting in there,” Tim Criswell said. “Finding that right blend and that right mix is going to take some time. But it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited for some of these seniors that have had to sit because we had good players in front of them and they’ve had to wait their turn. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
The Trojans’ move up to Class AAAA pits them in Region 5 with former region stalwarts Shaw, LaGrange, Troup and Columbus, while Alexander, Sandy Creek and Fayette County join the fray.
Of course, the Trojans know what to expect from the four region holdovers, while Sandy Creek will have a good number of athletes and Fayette County went 25-3 last season and is just two years removed from a trip to the Class AAAA state semifinals.
“It’s going to be tough. It really is. If I had to pick now — and I haven’t seen Sandy Creek — but it goes without saying that they’re going to be extremely athletic. They have a new coach. I know LaGrange has every starter back but one. They gave us all we wanted last year. Shaw’s got a ton of guys back. I would think that those two would be the lead dogs in the region,” Tim Criswell said.
“There’s not any gimmies. I think the old adage that if we can win at home and somehow find a way to win half of them on the road, I think you’ll be in the hunt.”
And just like with football season, the Trojans open the year against Oxford, continuing a new border battle between two successful athletic programs.
“I went and saw Oxford on Tuesday night and was impressed with them. They’ve lost one game to Hoover by two points. I think it’ll be a heck of a ball game. I think it will go along the lines of the way we compete with them in football, compete with them in baseball and everything else. They’re good and they’ve got a good program and they’ve got a good coach,” Tim Criswell said. “It’ll be a fun night. I think it’ll be a heck of a ball game to get the season started.”