With the summer league basketball slate for the West Ouachita, it is time over the Fourth of July holiday for first-year coach Derek Lopez to reflect on his tenure so far.
Recently hired to take over the boys basketball program from his assistant position at Ouachita High School, the former Jena High School head coach said he was “pleasantly surprised” by how well the team is picking up his system.
“The kids worked extremely hard through summer league,” Lopez said. “We picked up quickly on the defensive stuff.”
Lopez has helped the Ouachita Lions be one of the top Class 5A teams in the state over the past few years.
While the talent level at West Ouachita is not quite to that level yet, reigning District 2-4A MVP Saxton Becker along with fellow seniors Clay Blackston, Will Wallace T.R. Masters are leading by example.
“Our seniors have bought in and that is huge,” Lopez said. “Anytime you step into a new situation it is about will the seniors buy into to it. Becker is leading them but it is really a group effort that has a trickles down.”
Lopez is stressing a defensive aggressiveness that he hopes the team can use to its advantage to make up for any mismatches in athleticism.
“We stress sharing the basketball and playing defense,” Lopez said. “The athleticism would be something extra. If you play disciplined and block out you give yourself a chance.”
Now that a good portion of offensive and defensive sets have been worked out during summer league games, Lopez will focus the rest of the summer on the fundamentals that will prepare the team for the tough road ahead in 2-4A.
“We just want to focus on each player getting better,” Lopez said. “I know it is coach talk, but we have to get bigger, faster and stronger. That is the truth.”
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