Thompson Warriors boys basketball head coach Kelly Cheatham is well aware of how difficult it will be to maneuver through Class 7A Area 5 play. Excuse him, however, if he doesn’t feel his team will be overwhelmed by the task.
“We’ve played an unbelievably tough schedule,” Cheatham said. “I was hoping that our guys would be prepared when area play comes. I don’t think they could be any more prepared. They’ve faced some of the toughest teams in the state, quite a few of them. Whether we feel good or not, the talent level that’s in our area, won’t be a shock to our young guys. They’ve gone head to head with some of the toughest competition in the state.”
Cheatham knew that the learning curve would be steep for his young roster. He also believed that was the best way to prepare his team for an area which includes Hoover, Tuscaloosa County and Vestavia Hills.
The Warriors certainly took some lumps in the early part of the season. They lost their first 11 games before claiming a 54-50 victory over Bibb County. The Warriors are 1-12, heading into Tuesday night’s area opener against visiting Hoover (15-4).
It doesn’t take a long look to see that the Warriors have taken some important strides.
“They’ve gone from just out there playing to competing,” Cheatham said. “They’ve got to learn how to win, they’ve got to learn how important the first second of the game is. With the kind of team we’ve got, they’ve to learn that everything is urgent. It’s not, ‘I can make this mistake early in the game and we can make up for it.’ We’ve got to learn that a sense of urgency is the whole game for us, if we’re going to stay in and win some games.”
Cheatham has a clear vision on some important objectives now that area play is beginning.
“We got to rebound it and we’ve got to take care of it,” Cheatham said. “Over the course of the season, we don’t value the basketball enough and we don’t rebound it well enough.”
That will be magnified in an area that includes big post players, including Hoover’s 6-foot-11 Trey Jemison, a four-star recruit and Clemson commitment, and outstanding rebounding teams. Thompson can’t match their size but need to find a way to win on the boards and do all the little things needed to win.
“Another part is just toughness,” Cheatham said. “Being able to be ball strong, make good passes, ball security, being able to box out a bigger guy. All of that has a little bit to do with toughness. We’ve had games where we’ve given up six or seven offensive rebounds in one possession. That won’t get it done.”
Cheatham knows it won’t be easy but has confidence in his team.
“Hopefully, we can steal a couple of wins in the area and kind of surprise some people,” Cheatham said.