CLOVER — With the Dec. 6 regular season opener looming, Clover High School boys basketball coach Bailey Jackson has been pleased with the team’s work ethic and commitment during the preseason.
The Blue Eagles play Friday in the Clover-based Optimist Classic before shifting the team’s focus to next week’s home opener against Hunter Huss.
“We have a great group of kids who’ve been working hard in preseason practice,” Jackson said. “I enjoy coaching them. With the attitude I’ve seen in preseason preparations, I look for the team to be better this year.”
With most of the players returning from last year, Jackson is placing emphasis on defensive play.
The CHS coach is looking for sophomore point guard Noah Lindsay to blend with the experienced personnel in the team’s offensive scheme.
Jackson, who built Fort Mill into a region powerhouse before returning to Blue Eagle country where he played basketball, said the Blue Eagle players benefited from a busy off season.
“The kids are stronger this year,” he said. “The weight room coaches do a good job with the conditioning program.”
Blue Eagle senior mainstays Alex Thompson and Ladarius Adams know what it takes to elevate the program to the new level.
“We’ve been working hard in the preseason,” Thompson said. “Our practices have been more intense than ever. Coach wants to see improvement.”
Thompson, whose physical prowess makes him a presence around the glass, said the Blue Eagles need to step up the defensive pace this season.
“Defense wins games,” said the team’s power forward. “I take pride in playing defense. It becomes a difference-maker.”
Offensively, Thompson prefers to take it to the hoop and will never pass up a slam dunk opportunity.
“I will slam dunk the ball when the situation calls for it,” he said. “It gets the team and the crowd excited.”
Thompson offers words of advice for the younger, less-experienced players on the team.
“Keep a good work ethic and never let up,” he said. “Coach expects progress to be made.”
Thompson appreciates the fan base in Clover. “We have great fans who give us the inspiration we need,” he said.
Adams, one of the region’s best players during football season, recognizes the need to get into basketball shape.
“I’m used to it,” he said. “You always have to make adjustments.”
While Adams scores his share of points, the Blue Eagle standout said defense is what it’s all about, especially shot blocking as a game-changing force.
“The key to success is solid defense and playing together,” he said. “It’s a team effort that gets it done.”
Jackson looks for more than a few challenges in Region 3-AAAA play this season.
“It is a very competitive region,” the CHS coach said.