All it takes is a glance at the Thompson High boys’ basketball roster to see that the Warriors are building for the future. However, the future that head coach Kelly Cheatham is building towards is sooner than one might expect.
The future that the youthful Warriors are building toward is only about a month away.
“We started talking, a couple of games ago, these games matter, but it really doesn’t matter because you got six games in January, which would be our area games, and then we got our area tournament at the end of the year, which determines if you go to the playoffs and how far you go,” Cheatham said.
The early part of the season hasn’t been a smooth ride for the Warriors, which was expected with a roster that includes very little previous varsity experience, especially with the football team’s extended stay in the playoffs. Cheatham began the season with a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores.
After nine games, the Warriors are still searching for their first win.
“It was rough for them but it was valuable experience,” Cheatham said. “Before, you might have a couple of 10th graders and maybe a 9th grader, but not as many as we have playing right now. It’s tough. I think it will pay off in the long run for us. We’re just trying to keep them positive.”
Cheatham said that sophomore Chaney Johnson emerged quickly as a leader.
“He played freshman last year,” Cheatham said. “He stepped up and became kind of a leader for us vocally. He doesn’t have outstanding numbers on the court. But, just being a vocal leader, keeping the guys in it, communicating on the court. With that kind of stuff, he’s invaluable to our team. He’s coming along, he’s going to be a good player.”
The statistical leaders, at least early in the season was sophomore Zach Littleton, who played some varsity as a freshman.
The Warriors are now bolstered by the addition of senior Roy’el Everson, junior Chris Hopkins and freshman J.B. Mitchell. All three played in Thompson’s football program and rejoined the basketball squad soon after the season-ending loss to Hoover in the Class 7A semifinals.
Cheatham said he saw an immediate difference with the addition of the three players.
“They bring physicality, no doubt about it,” Cheatham said. “We were getting bullied and pushed around on the court. Their first game back, actually, I could see the difference. It was a difference level of intensity and physicality that you have to have.”
Hopkins has more varsity experience than perhaps anyone on the roster and all three will play a vital role.
“Those three guys give us a little bit more speed and a little bit more depth,” Cheatham said.
Thompson continues what has already been a stringent schedule with a trip to Homewood on Friday.
“We do have a tough schedule,” said Cheatham, who came to Thompson last season after a long and successful stint at Ramsay High in Birmingham. “I want them to play at the top level and see what that looks like. There are really no cupcake, easy games, if you look at it. We’re going to have to fight to get it done. From my experience, that’s how it’s done. We’ve been successful and we plan on being successful here.”