Photo by Derrick Mahone / Drew coach Jarrod Davis gives rising sophomore guard James Ruiz some instructions during a timeout at a recent scrimmage.
RIVERDALE — A year after winning a region championship and playing for a state title, the Drew boys basketball team spent this past postseason at home.
The Titans failed in their attempt to reach the state playoffs for a third straight season.
Despite having to replace nine seniors from a team that played for the Class AAA title the year before, Drew was just one win away from returning to the state tournament.
But a 73-48 loss to Whitewater in the Region 4-AAAAA tournament ended those chances. Still, there’s hope that this year will signify a reversal of fortunes.
“We are getting good chemistry this summer, and should be ready when the season comes around,” Drew rising junior Maleek Taylor said.
“The seniors will play a big role in leadership,” Forest Redd, a rising senior said.
Titans coach Jarrod Davis said a lot was taken for granted last season because of the programs instant success. The majority of players on last year’s roster just assumed success would come because that is the only thing they had experienced during their time in the program.
Last season’s senior class were members of the team that reached the Class AAA finals against Columbia in Macon. The majority of the newcomers played on the junior varsity county championship team.
“I think everybody thought it was going to be easy because of our past success,” Davis said. “Because we were successful, teasm were giving us their best games. We were still a young team, but these guys only knew about the success of the Drew program.”
Since the past teams were senior-oriented, many of the underclassmen didn’t get much opportunity to play.
“We didn’t do a good job of getting the younger players involved on the varsity earlier,” Davis said. “We had a feeling that we weren’t going to be good early in the season, but had a chance once we got some experience.”
And that proved to be true.
Drew finished with a 15-10 record, and were runners-up in the subregion to Mundy’s Mill. The Titans started the season with a 4-6 record before the Christmas break. The team won eight straight games before losing its regular season finale to Mount Zion.
Leading scorer Brandon Clyde, who has signed a scholarship with Miles College in Birmingham, went down with a wrist injury just before the start of the Region 4-AAAAA tournament. The loss of its leading scorer, didn’t help the Titans’ cause in that lopsided, season ending loss to Whitewater.
Sophomore-to-be Bryson Duckworth believes that the memories elicited from that defeat will serve as motivation going into this season.
“I know this team can rise to the challenge,” Duckworth said. “We have been working harder, and putting in some extra work. We are getting better, and I think we are making some progress.”