Briarwood looking to grow under new coach Mears into up-tempo, tight-knit team

Published 1:37 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Briarwood has a new man in charge in Jeremy Mears, but the Lions hope to keep building towards success.

Part of that is because Mears has been in the program for close to two decades under coaches Chris Laatsch and Bobby Kerley, and now, Mears is excited to take the reins.

“Being part of the staff and knowing all these kids and their families and having relationships with them that go back several years is certainly a plus, and that has enhanced the transition for sure,” Mears said. “We’ve got a good group of guys and I’m excited to get to work with them.”

Briarwood is in a unique situation because although they lost six seniors, they bring back seven seniors to this year’s team. The Class of 2024 are all close friends with each other, and Mears said that that sets the tone for the rest of the team.

Those seniors include the 6-foot-7, 277-pound Luke Schultz, who will be a lynchpin in the offense along with fellow big man Garrett Witherington. The Lions want to utilize their size to get the ball inside to either score in the post or kick the ball out after drawing double-teams.

That means the outside threats will be just as key to Briarwood’s success as its front court, and the Lions hope to take advantage of the experience that Caleb Keller got in the starting lineup last season due to injuries and combine that with his hard-working attitude and basketball IQ in a full season.

Sophomore Drew Mears is another player looking to improve his game, and he is a quick guard who can score on all three levels and also is the team’s best deep threat. Eli Stubbs, Josh Thompson, AJ Ray and Thomas Loudon are all poised to take the next step after strong summers, and they will all play key roles in Briarwood’s playstyle.

A lot of the Lions’ style this season will be building off of and making small tweaks to what they did last year. Coach Mears wants to play at a faster pace than before, pushing the ball in transition and moving the ball and his players around the court quickly.

He hopes that the quick pace will lead to good early shots, but if not, they can fall back on set plays thanks to Keller’s ability to organize and run the offense.

In the end, the Lions hope to grow as the season goes on as the players get more game experience together, especially since they are well-aware that their season comes down to just a handful of games in area play.

Beyond just playing their best basketball at the end of the year, though, Briarwood wants to grow closer as a team, taking advantage of the close bond of their seniors and extending that throughout the team. Coach Mears believes if they do that, it will lead to success.

“We want to be a band of brothers that doesn’t want to let each other down by a lack of effort or not knowing where to go, and so we’re going to pay close attention to detail,” Mears said. “And I think if we can do those things, that will be success, that will measure our success, and I think it will translate into wins and getting those bigger things like a championship.”