PETAL – For high school boys basketball teams, getting plenty of work in during the summer can be one of the big keys to building the foundations of a program.
That’s why Petal coach Kyle Roane was eager to open the Petal High gymnasium as part of the month-long William Carey University Men’s Team Camp.
“Summer is so big for our individual skill development,” said Roane, who is entering his second season as the coach of the Panthers.
“Then they bring those drills and individual development and watch it come together as a team.”
A handful of high school teams, including teams from as far away as Winona and Ocean Springs make the twice-weekly trip to play at Carey’s Clinton Gym or the Petal High gym.
A parade of teams play from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays in a full-court scrimmage with a 20-minute running clock.
“We’ve made tremendous improvement,” said Sumrall coach Lee Ready, who had a squad playing Petal in one of 12 games at the gym Friday afternoon.
“From the first game of summer to now, we’ve made great strides. They’re playing a lot better team ball and the focus is on defense in the summer. They’re buying into it.”
Most coaches know what their returning players can do, but it’s a different story for the younger players.
“Summer is the time to actually get better,” said Taylor Wilson, a rising sophomore guard for Petal. “If you don’t work on your game now, you can’t get better.
“The guards that are juniors now have a lot of talent, so I just want to work on my game and show what I can do to help the team if not this year, then for next year.”
In the modern world, high school sports has become a year-round pursuit, and the summer is an integral part of the process.
“You’ve got to make kids understand that it is work,” Roane said. “In varsity athletics there’s not an off-season any more. There are really two seasons, a season for working as a team and a season for working as an individual.”
That is especially true at schools where boys are often multi-sport contributors at their schools.
“Summer is like spring training for football,” Ready said. “You’ve got to figure out how you’re going to play, test your lineups and set your rotation, and let them get a chance to play together before the real thing.
“We have 13 who play football, so after June, they won’t play together again until November, and that’s when it’s time to play.”
And in that situation, having the summer as a base helps players make the transition from football to basketball.
“We had an awesome situation with our athletic department last year,” Roane said. “Our football team played the maximum number of games, so when we got those players, we had to step back and catch up, because we didn’t have a summer program with the coaching change.”
For Roane, that is part of his long-term philosophy of building a program, rather than just a team.
“We want basketball to be program-based, not just a team from year-to-year,” Roane said. “The summer is vital to the growth of the program. I am a system guy, and you have to build that during the summer.”
By the end of this month, coaches should know who their starting five will be, and who will be their top contributors off the bench.
“It’s all about finding out who plays best together, who your probable starters are going to be, and who’s your sixth, seventh and eighth guys,” Ready said. “That’s what you do in June.”