Pelham boasts talented roster ahead of 2021-2022 season

Published 5:03 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2021

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By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

Fresh off back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances with late pushes the last two seasons, the Pelham Panthers will enter the 2021-2022 basketball season with arguably their highest expectations in several years.

The Panthers lost three players from last year’s team but only one key contributor in forward Kendan Maddox.

Going into year two under head coach Greg Dickinson, Pelham returns starter Roy Gonzalez to a guard position, while they also get the addition of All-County First Team player Michael Jones from Montevallo, who will be a four-year starter.

Beyond that, Jordan Holloway adds good size, while athletes such as Will Lankford, Kamari Hollis, Jamal Miles, Darius Copeland and several others, while the team has a total of nine seniors on the roster.

“This year, I think we have a great chance to go farther than we did last year getting to the Sweet 16,” Dickinson said. “We have a great senior class returning, and I think we have a great chance this year.”

Dickinson also said it helps that the players will be in his system for the second year in a row, after spending much of last season trying to learn what to do with COVID-19 limiting time together before the season.

“Last year, we were trying to learn the system. But now, they just know it,” Dickinson said. “It comes natural to them. As the season went on, they were running everything a lot better.”

A team that likes to get out and run while also putting up a lot of shots, the athleticism of the group should play well for the style, especially with the addition of Jones.

He was the county’s second-leading scorer last year with 20 points per game, while he also added four assists and four rebounds. The year before, he led the county in scoring as a sophomore with 18.2 points per game.

“Michael Jones is probably one of the top point guards in the state,” Dickinson said. “He can shoot it, he’s a great defender and a great rebounder.”

For Jones, however, his focus remains on doing whatever he can for his new teammates.

“Leadership will be important for me as a senior,” Jones said. “The team will follow the seniors, so we’ll have to step up. I know I can score, but I want to get the team involved first. If I need to score, I will, but I enjoy facilitating as well.”

Holloway also feels that pressure as one of the taller players on the team as a 6-foot-5 senior.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself, just trying to be the guy I’m supposed to be for my team, but I handle it and just focus on stepping up for my teammates,” he said. “We’re pushing each other and going at it hard in practice to make each other better. Working hard in practice, pushing ourselves, that will be what helps us get past the Sweet 16.”

Holloway will be one of many players on the roster who can shoot or drive to the basket, but he’ll add a longer wingspan and a guy who can play with his back to the basket.

He will be important in helping replace Maddox’s 6-foot-7 presence as well as his 13.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game.

All-in-all, it’s the deepest roster the team has had in several years, and not just that, it’s a team that for the most part has been together since kindergarten.

“They’re so close,” Dickinson said. “They actually get on each other this year. The team chemistry is much better.”

The Panthers will open the new season with a home matchup against Hewitt-Trussville on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

They’ll also be hosting a Thanksgiving tournament again this year, starting on Nov. 22.