By Ryan Costello, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
The Enid boys basketball team notched seven of its nine wins last season by eight points or fewer. Now, they enter 2012-13 down five seniors, including their top player, and without a sure-fire closer.
In a Tuesday scrimmage, at least, that wasn’t a problem.
With his team trailing by two points with 6 seconds remaining, Enid senior Jemarcus Jackson snatched an offensive rebound off teammate Correll Baker’s miss, then powered through contact to tie the game at 36.
Jackson missed a chance to win the game with a free throw, but in a two-minute overtime, the 6-foot-3, 150-pound Plainsman hit a three on one end, blocked a shot on the other, then sealed the intrasquad tilt with a breakaway layup, scoring all five of his team’s extra-session points.
After his performance, Jackson insisted he wasn’t the only player capable of shouldering the load.
“I see myself going out there and giving everything I have to try and finish off the game, but a lot of other guys can do it, too,” he said.
It sounded like modesty, but for the Plainsmen, who lost graduate Mitchell Foote’s team-leading 13.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 2.6 blocks per game, not having one go-to option is by design, and out of necessity.
“We have a lot of guys on any given night that are going to be the guy,” said second-year head coach Ryan Wilkinson. “It’s a unique situation, but it’s a good one to have. We definitely have guys that have proven in the past to be scorers, and we can rely on any one of those guys.”
Still, the job would seem to be Jackson’s for the taking.
Enid’s top returning scorer and rebounder (8.9 and 5.2, respectively) put most of his offseason focus on his ballhandling in the hopes of rounding out his skill set and keeping the Plainsmen, who finished 9-14 last year, from recording a third-straight losing season.
“It was a big step for me,” said Jackson, who played significant time in the low post last season. “I realized I may not get taller, and I’ve got to learn how to handle the ball a lot better. And I’ve improved a lot on it.”
Among Enid’s other options is an eight-player senior class that likely will get the bulk of Enid’s minutes this season, Wilkinson said.
Keon and Deon Parker will rotate at point to start the season. Baker, Enid’s most efficient scorer inside the three-point line at 57 percent last season, will share time with Darnae Banks at the shooting guard and small forward positions, and Harrison Maude and Lance Smith get the bulk of their minutes at forward.
Mike Walker, a guard, and Jackson round out the senior class.
Junior guard Aaron Austin, who stole a pass at halfcourt to keep his team in the scrimmage, will see significant time this season as the Plainsmen’s No. 2 returning scorer (5.4) and rebounder (3.3), and fellow junior Michael Majors is in line to open the season as Enid’s starting center.
“He definitely got a lot stronger,” said Wilkinson of the 6-foot-7, 180-pound Majors. “Physically, that was probably his biggest (disadvantage) last season. He would get pushed around in the post a little bit, and he was decent defensively as far as positioning goes, but a lot of times, he was in good rebounding positions, but a lot of guys who were older than him would just physically take the ball from him.”
The Plainsmen will be an up-tempo team in 2012-13, but Wilkinson current job is cleaning up the team’s half-court execution, something he hopes will happen with the help of a simplified playbook to start the season.
“It’s something we’re getting better at as they’re understanding what they think a good shot is and what I think a good shot is,” Wilkinson said. “They’ve shown the will to get better.”
Perhaps none more than Jackson, who hopes the effort will pay off beyond his final year in Enid.
“I think I can go out and play college ball,” he said. “That’s my dream. And I believe I can if I keep striving and striving and striving. It’s a ll about hard work.”
For now, he’s got something else in mind, chuckling sheepishly: “A championship ring.”
EL RENO at ENID
Tip off: Girls 6:30 p.m.; Boys 8 p.m.
Location: Mabee Center
Radio: KGWA (960 AM)