Basketball prepares for rebound season

By James Burton

Entering his third year as Head Coach of Varsity boys basketball, Coach Tray Malloy may have the most talented group Westminster has seen in years. Although key players Robert Kresser, Rivers Patterson and Michael Russell have moved on, Coach Malloy returns with an experienced and hungry group. After finishing last year with a discouraging 10-17 record, it may have appeared that Westminster basketball was headed for further disappointment. But behind seniors Joe Bridges and Harrison Butker, as well as juniors Quay Strozier and Sam Schmal, Westminster looks poised for a much improved campaign.

“So far this year, a lot of players from every grade have really stepped up and have been huge contributors to our success,” said senior Joe Bridges. “We have been able to create some great chemistry on the court.”

Behind all this improvement is Coach Malloy. The dedication he has shown throughout his tenure as Head Basketball Coach has clearly materialized on the court, as the team has shown marked improvement throughout its first few games. After losing a hard-fought game against North Atlanta 52-54, they came back with convincing wins over Harris County and West Hall High Schools. Coach Malloy’s relentless attitude towards preparation has helped this team take the next step towards becoming a closer and more cohesive unit.

“Coach Malloy’s focus on teamwork and giving 100% at every moment,” said junior Chase Evans, “has really impacted our team and helped us to our winning record so far.”

Going into the season, this year’s team was expected to be very upperclassmen heavy, but the emergence of freshmen Will Benson and Logan Devereaux has given the team an added boost. Since both see significant playing time, even with the return of the football players, they both seem poised for a bright future with the program.

“[Benson and Devereaux] have really stepped up and provided the needed energy while the football team was in the playoffs,” said junior Austin Chapman. “Having already learned the playbook and scheme, they will be key factors for Westminster basketball for a while.”

Throughout the history of Westminster basketball, there has been only one state championship team. While Westminster has been a playoff staple for many years, they have never been able to get over the hump and contend for the state title.

“It would be great for the basketball program because we have not been to the state playoffs in a couple years,” said Bridges, “and it would be an incredible experience to play on the team that did so.”

With Bridges, an AJC Player to Watch, and athletes such as Strozier and Butker leading the way, they hope to reverse the trend.

“It would honestly be a great push for the basketball program as a whole at Westminster,” said Chapman. “It would be a great foundation on which to build and, hopefully, soon we will be able to contend for the elusive state title.”

Up next for the Wildcats is a rematch against North Atlanta. After bouncing back from a tough loss to rival Blessed Trinity with an overtime win over Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy the Wildcats look to continue the momentum. With a rematch with North Atlanta close in their sights, the Wildcats look to avenge their season-opening loss to the Warriors. Appearing to be yet another close regular season matchup, the Wildcats hope to reach the maximum of their potential intensity and focus in order to capture another win.

“Unfortunately, the first time around we didn’t pull off the win, but I thought we played well, given that the entire team had only been together for a week,” said Bridges. “Now we hope to correct the mistakes that cost us and get the victory.”

North Atlanta has compiled an impressive amount of talent, including big man Noah Dickerson. A transfer from Lovett, he has all the skills and physical attributes to go to the next level, making him a tough matchup for Westminster. Hoping to slow him down are post players Robert Howell, Joe Bridges, and Jackson Heazel. Although he didn’t play in the first matchup, the Wildcats are assuming Dickerson will suit up for the visiting Warriors.

“Dickerson wasn’t there last time we played North Atlanta so we should have won the game, but it was our first game with the whole team there so there is nothing to complain about,” said Chapman. “Hopefully this time he can be neutralized and we can come out with a great effort and a team win.”
Overall, this season is full of opportunity for Westminster basketball. With the mixture of senior leadership and young talented freshmen this team hopes to accomplish goals not many teams have been able to, and with the seasoned leadership of Coach Malloy, it seems even more possible.