Shelby County hopes youth movement leads to area success

Published 12:47 pm Monday, November 13, 2023

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By SETH HAGAN | Special to the Reporter

The Shelby County Wildcats came up just short of the postseason last year, and despite losing a big senior class, an injection of youth is here that gives Cedric Drake’s team a new look for incoming opponents.

“We were top heavy and had ten seniors last year and we have one guy returning,” Drake said. “Fortunately, we had a really good junior varsity team and they’ve been playing with each other for a while now.”

The JV team lost four games all of last year, and their chemistry allows them to play at a pace the coaching staff prefers.

“This year, we want to play really fast, press a lot, get a lot of fast break points and get after people defensively,” Drake said. “We had a lot of size and we won’t be as big this year, but I think the lack of size will come with more athleticism and quickness.”

Coach Drake knows a lot of changes are coming up in Area 8 and knows the potential for his program after being so close to a postseason run last season.

“There’s a lot of turnover in our area with two new coaches, so it’s going to be a challenging year,” says Drake. “The way we finished the season last year against Central Clay, we lost by one point in the area tournament and they went on to finish one game away from playing in Birmingham.”

With an almost brand-new varsity squad, the Wildcats had to find out what they were working with, and they made sure to play plenty of games in the summer to identify just that.

“We tried to play 12 to 15 games this summer so we had a play date every week, and it was very key,” Drake said. “We got a chance to play some quality competition that we won’t see during the season, some teams from out-of-state. We matched up pretty well and held our own this summer.”

There are a lot of players who possess good guard skills like ball handling and perimeter shooting. That will enable the Wildcats to get into their offense faster and create more opportunities to score.

“My philosophy is still going to be scoring inside-out, so we’ll look to drive and kick, and I do feel like we have a few guys that can make shots,” Drake said. “We want to apply pressure offensively and defensively, and this team will be one of the teams where we’ll be able to do that.”

This new team will have a different skill set, but they’ll have a different mindset as well. The blue-collar identity of this team will determine how far they can go this season. The coaching staff knows this squad will always give the requisite effort to win the ball game.