Calera seeks to reestablish traditional identity with promising young players

Published 12:17 pm Saturday, November 4, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

A lot has changed in high school basketball since Calera head coach George Drake took the reins for the Eagles, but the standard has remained the same.

An Eagles program that was a successful 2A program when Drake played for it has now settled into life as a Class 6A team, and after a difficult pair of seasons, he wants to regain that standard of excellence at Calera

“It’s different, but that’s a part of life, things change,” Drake said. “But at the same time, the last couple of years, we found ourselves just in the mix of having guys leave and come back and so we just had to weather that storm. But the main thing is to try to re-identify yourself and establish that. And I think, culturally, Calera is a basketball program and I think this year will be the year that we start with gaining back our identity, so I’m excited.”

That identity is good, intense, hard-nosed basketball. Drake believes Calera has been at its best when it plays with passion, fight and desire in every aspect of the game.

Practically, that looks like playing fast on offense and establishing a ferocious defense that gets stops and rebounds because players are willing to do whatever it takes for the team, even if that means laying their body on the line.

Drake especially believes in the idea of a hard-working defense, and he sees that as the key to success.

“At the end of the day, if we’re productive there, I think it’ll give us our best shot of having opportunities to be successful,” Drake said.

The players are bought in to that idea and have made practices competitive with five-on-five drills and off-court competitions, and that starts with senior Tierren Thomas.

“I truly see that we’re bringing that Calera basketball back, that fight, that intensity,” Thomas said. “Everybody sees how Calera plays over the course of the years with intensity, packing that gym. I’m starting to see that vision in our team again.”

Drake wants to lean on experienced players like Thomas and the other seniors because they know the culture and the expectations, especially with a fairly young group that is still building chemistry. He sees that youthfulness as a positive to build off of this year.

“A lot of people look at being young as a bad thing,” Drake said. “But for how we want to play and the things that we’re teaching and have been teaching this summer, having some young guys who haven’t had that experience, you can mold those guys to what you want them to be.”

In addition, the Eagles have an exciting transfer this year in Tavis Hatch as well as multiple players who were injured throughout the season last year and are ready to make an impact.

Even though much of this year will be about building up the future of Calera, Drake, Thomas, and everyone on the team wants to win as many games as possible. However, they know that future success will come from laying a solid foundation now.

“We want to win, there’s no if’s, and’s or but’s about that,” Drake said. “But the most important thing for me is just we want to regain our identity. Just being that that team that when you come to Calera or when you see Calera coming, you know you’ve got to lace up your boots, put your hard hat on, and you’ve got to be prepared to play because we’re going to bring the fire.”

Overall, Drake believes in this team and what they are capable of and knows that they are on the right path towards getting back to the program that they used to be.

“I think this team right here is going to be the start of getting us back to where we need to be,” Drake said.