NAUGATUCK — Tug Valley head Coach Ed May said it best, “These kids have played together so long, they can enter a gym and in two days they look like they haven’t missed a beat.”
The Panthers started the three week practice period on Monday along with many other schools in W.Va. On the first day the Panthers headed over to Pikeville to play in a team tournament set up for summer conditioning. Among the Panthers were Pikeville High School, Magoffin County, Pike Central, Hurricane W.Va., Shelby Valley and a few more. The Panthers went 6-0 in the summer tournament.
The Panthers are picking up right where they left off; which is as a team that you need to be ready for. Tug Valley has a lot on their schedule in the upcoming weeks with camps at Marshall University and in Charleston. The Panthers will face some tough opponents and be able to gauge what may lie in the future for the team. Whatever could happen the Panthers feel ready.
The three players that departed during the off season with the biggest impact on the team was Calvin Blankenship, Corbin Oliver, and Chandler Runyon; although, the team was heavy dominated by their super sophomore class. All of those players and more are returning to give the Naugatuck Nightmares something to loose their minds about.
A lot of effort has been put in by the Panthers returning players to get ready for the upcoming season and it shows. Shooting guard Tyler May has been working hard in the off season to improve his strength, at the Panthers first summer practice in their home gym May looked solid with more upper body strength.
Johnathan Blankenship returns but with a different role from last season. Johnathan played back seat to his older brother, Calvin, this season he has a lot more responsibilities. Johnathan is playing with more control now, his 110 percent effort has been harnessed, to a degree, during the off season. Blankenship will join his fellow juniors in Ed Mays fast paced, “take no prisoners;” offense.
Jeremy Dillon will return to wow Panther fans once again. Dillon has reportedly been paying extra attention to his basketball skills over the off season and will surely make it another season to remember. His natural athletic ability and his man sized frame will be at his disposal once again in an offense that feeds his need for the ball.
Garrett Brown was a perimeter shooter, for the most part, last season and this year he will have to take on a more inside role. the good news is that Brown grey over the summer and is standing tall above his team mates. Brown has a great shot which he showcased last season, this year he will be a big threat to opposing teams with his height, length, and jumping ability.
Colby Savage didn’t get as much playing time as his sophomore counterparts last season but that didn’t stop him from making an impact. Savage was used in key minutes when the game pace needed to be slowed down, he excelled and showcased fundamentally sound post moves. Savage has reportedly lost some weight over the off season which will make him fit better into a game plan that is simple; score and keep them from scoring.
The Panthers make what they do look simple at times but there is a lot of discipline that takes place behind the scenes. The Panthers are a pressing team that hardly ever plays zone defense. Their slow pace is other teams lightening speed. Their ability to move the ball up the court after a defensive rebound was superior in the area , last season. This year no one expects any less. The Panthers will definitely be the team that pushes the ball up floor and the Panthers will definitely be the team that will press your butt off.
On the offensive side the Panthers have one big goal, and that’s to score. The Panthers were putting up major points last season when they had multiple players getting hot outside the arc. During the three week period Coach May has been introducing his younger players to the important aspects of their half-court offense but, they stay warm with plenty of game style scrimmages that keep the players operating at a fast pace.
“It’s one really important thing for us, we can do the drills and workout with all these machines and practice-practice-practice but, nothing can get you fully ready for the fast pace of a game unless you play everything like it is a real game,” said Coach May.
The three week period is always a tease of the real thing, players get to workout and train but the summer makes it difficult to get fully into the material for the year. Families take vacations and sometimes players have difficulty making it to practice however, it is essential and useful; it also make the mouth water for the sound of a buzzer, for the sound of the real thing.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242, or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)