Basketball preview: Vincent Yellow Jackets

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Writer

VINCENT – November is here, meaning temperatures are getting cooler, leaves are changing and football is coming to an end. With all of these changes comes basketball season. It seems to have snuck up on us this year just as it does every year hiding behind the high school football playoffs, but that being said basketball has proven to be one of the county’s better sports.

We start this year’s basketball previews with one of the most successful teams in the county over the past seven years, the Vincent Yellow Jackets.

Head coach John Hadder is heading into his eighth season at the helm bringing with him an average of close to 24 wins per year. Last season his team finished 24-7 in a run to the Sweet Sixteen, a season after making it to the final four. They fell to Section 37-34 in a heart-breaking game that ended their season and a run at back-to-back final fours.

Hadder has been to two final fours, seven consecutive northeast regional tournaments and five regional final games, but this year’s team is going to have to make some big adjustments with the loss of both of the team’s reliable big men, Wesley King and Mississippi State commit E.J. Datcher.

“All of our reliable inside game is gone now,” Hadder said. “We are going to have to go back to playing small and being a guard heavy offense this year.”

Datcher, a Second Team All-County player, led the team with 14.6 points per game, 10.6 rebounds per game and 3.2 blocks per game last season, while King averaged 10.3 points per game and seven rebounds a game.

Although they have gotten used to playing a big man game in Vincent, Hadder is no stranger to preparing his team to play small ball. Two years ago during their final four run, Datcher went down with an injury midway through the season causing Hadder to make adjustments. His 6-foot-3 point guard at the time was forced to take over the center position as the team went small, but the Yellow Jackets had no problem with the adjustment.

“Before we had Datcher we actually played a lot of small ball and ended up changing our offense around to suit him, but I honestly prefer to play a smaller, up tempo type of game,” Hadder said.

Having lost seven seniors from last year’s tame, this squad is going  to have to rely heavily on the two lone starters returning for the 2016-17 season.

Senior guard Stephen Campbell will be looked at as the go to guy and game manager. Having averaged 10.6 points per game and 2.9 assists per game last year, he will be looked at as the team’s offensive guru. He averaged almost six more points than the next returning starter.

“He’s primed for a good year,” Hadder said. “He will have a lot of leeway on the court and we are really pushing for him to take charge offensively and lead this team.”

The other returning starter is junior Zavien Kelley, who got a great deal of experience last season as a sophomore. After averaging 4.9 points per game and 2.3 assists per game last season, he is another guard that will be looked upon to help create for not only himself, but his teammates.

Other contributing factors for the Yellow Jackets this year will be seniors Josef Greene, Deandre Davis and Doug Bowman, and sophomore Chris Hardy. Combined those guys averaged 3.9 points per game a season ago in a smaller role, but their experience being seniors and bigger role players should increase that total this season.

“Even though they are lacking playing experience the seniors have been in the program for so long that they know what to do throughout the game,” Hadder said.

Having so much success as the coach at Vincent is actually what worries Hadder the most.

“We’ve been so successful that it’s difficult to live up to our expectations each year,” he said. “My job is to get us prepared and have my team believing they can live up to the expectations.”

Last year they came in with questionable perimeter and guard play and were able to survive, this year they come in with a questionable inside game and will look to survive that problem as well.

Vincent will tip off the season Nov. 17 with a home matchup against Childersburg.