Bearcats ‘reload’ in 2023-2024 season
Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, November 14, 2023
The Bearcat basketball season starts in less than a week, and The 2023-2024 team enters the season in the wake of a dominant season a year ago. The ‘22-’23 Bearcats lost just two games in the regular season and were led by a core group of seniors.
Bearcats’ head coach Kelvin Cochran said he views the success from a year ago as a benchmark and that his players will have to step up to reach it.
“We don’t rebuild. We reload,” Cochran said. “I’m kind of excited about this year. See, can we — I’m not going to say live up to what we did last year — but to try to keep it right there.”
Leading the Bearcats is a three-headed monster of seniors AJ Grant, Zyrell Williams, and Keith Gaines.
Grant enters the season as the only starter from the year before, and Cochran said that he’s looking for Grant to use his experience to his advantage to lead the team.
“I’ve always been the young guy,” Grant said. “Now that I’m the oldest, I have to step up and take a bigger role.”
During a practice session, Grant displayed his ability to lead. The team was doing a dribbling drill where players had to dribble through a series of cones, performing moves such as cross-overs or behind-the-back dribbles at each cone.
The drill went in rounds, with each round requiring players to do a different move. In the final round of the drill, players had to combine all of the moves into a 4-5 step dribbling sequence.
The technicality of the final round was no issue for the more experienced players, but the younger guys and guys new to basketball were struggling. During the round, Grant walked through the cones with an underclassman player who was having difficulties and coached him through each step of the sequence.
“I always have to preach like ‘you’re not perfect, no one’s perfect, even I’m going to mess up and I’ve been here,’” Grant said, talking about his teammates. “No matter if you mess up, keep fighting.’”
Williams comes into the ‘23-’24 season off an injury that sidelined him for the second half of last season. Cochran said he’s counting on Williams this year and that he knows Williams’ ability to lead.
“He’s been doing a great job of providing leadership even when he was injured last year,” Cochran said. “He was very encouraging and uplifting with the guys even though he couldn’t play anymore.
Gaines enters this season after playing with the talented group of seniors all of last season, and Cochran said he expects Gaines to flourish.
“He’s going to be a force this year,” Cochran said. “He’s playing with a lot more confidence than he did last year. Last year, he was playing with KJ and all the seniors, he didn’t want to be the one to mess it up… now he’s cut loose.”
The Bearcats get their first test on Thursday, Nov. 16 against Thomasville. The home game tips off at 7:30 p.m.