Calera has young, athletic team ready for special run

Published 11:42 am Wednesday, November 3, 2021

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By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

CALERA – The standard of Calera basketball is as high as it’s ever been. George Drake’s Eagles have become a playoff shoe-in type of program with several deep runs including last year’s trip to the Elite Eight.

Calera loses a deep, talented senior class with multiple All-County selections, but Drake and his staff have had to replace good players before.

Even though this version of the Eagles will be one of the youngest in his tenure, the standard remains the same.

“Our goals are to always win championships, whatever that looks like,” Drake said. “Whether that’s an area or ultimately a state championship, we kind of define year to year what that looks like, and it starts with our practices and the small things, so I’m just looking forward to continuing to grind.”

The coaching staff is embracing the challenge and passing that on to the players who have seen the excellence coming up through the program.

“We haven’t missed the playoffs in six years and we want to get back to the area championship,” senior Justin Green said. “We know it’s going to take work and we have to get one percent better every day because we know it won’t be easy.”

Calera is known for lighting up the scoreboard, but a hard-nosed defensive mindset is the catalyst spurring the offensive attack.

Drake preaches that the mindset goes beyond the court.

“I say this jokingly, but I want those guys in that mindset of when your opponent gets off that bus, you guard him in the parking lot,” Drake said. “So it’s really about our defense and if our defense is revved up and has a lot of energy it bleeds over to our offense and makes it better.”

What the team may lack in experience they certainly don’t lack in athleticism, so there’s a lot of potential that this new group can tap into.

“I think when this team gels and buys into communicating on both the offensive and defensive end, the sky’s the limit for this team,” Drake said. “We’ve got young guys who have motors and some guys coming in from the football team that will bring that aggression and once you put them all in the pot and get that energy out not only physically but verbally, they’ll be alright.”

When asked what he attributed to his program being able to remain consistently competitive throughout the last several years, Drake was quick to credit his players, staff and the players’ parents for their roles.

However, clearly the veteran coach has a basketball philosophy that’s attractive to the kids that always seems to be a forward thinking approach akin to the style of play at the next level.

“I have a unique way of portraying the style of play I want to see and it resonates with the guys,” Drake said. “Whether it’s the players of old or players that are coming, they want to get up and down and they want to play fast and they want to score a lot of points and turn people over.”

That style and its success gives the next class of players confidence that they can add to the history of Calera basketball and write their own chapter.

“We want to win, we’re a winning team and we want to show that Calera can make some noise this year even after losing a whole lot of seniors,” Green said. “We look at those banners from when (Coach Drake) played up until last year and we want one of those for ourselves.”

The Eagles will open the season Nov. 11 at Cullman.