By Trey Williams
Expectations are big enough at David Crockett this season to evoke images of Brendan Coleman holding a ball at both ends of his 84-inch wingspan.
After winning their first district tournament in 30 years and finishing second behind Dobyns-Bennett in the Big Seven Conference last season, the Pioneers are the prohibitive favorite among the league’s coaches.
It’s now or never for seniors Patrick Good, Dustin Day, Coleman, Ian Martin, Peyton Ford and Brandon Rains, who are all expected to contribute in what could be a season for the ages.
Good, a 5-foot-11 guard who has offers from Navy (Ed DeChellis) and King University (George Pitts), entered the season with more than 1,800 career points. He’s scored in excess of 1,600 since leaving Science Hill after his freshman season when his father, John, got the Crockett coaching job. Good is on pace to pass Shea Wilkerson, who is believed to be the Pioneers’ all-time scoring leader with 1,800-plus points.
Not that individual awards are what drive Good, who made the Tennessee Sports Writers Association All-State team after averaging 25 points, six rebounds and six assists in 2014-15.
“Patrick wants to win – bottom line,” said John Good, whose Pioneers opened the season by winning their second straight Hardee’s Classic title with an impressive 82-60 win against a solid Sullivan East team.
Day, a 6-foot-2 forward, scored his 1,000th career point in an 82-47 quarterfinal win against Johnson County, and made the all-tournament team for the third straight season.
“Dustin can score … and it comes from being in the gym every day and working on your craft,” Good said.
The 6-foot-7 Coleman tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds in the semifinals, a 69-45 win against Unicoi County. Crockett’s chances of reaching its potential hinge on the long-armed, athletic senior.
“He’s worked harder this summer than he has all his life, and I think he’ll be rewarded for his work,” Good said. “He’s very skilled and he has a high IQ.”
Martin, a 6-foot-1 post, also had a productive offseason and Good liked the pep in his step coming out of a productive season on Jeremy Bosken’s successful football team. Martin’s 3-pointer early in the second quarter gave the Pioneers the lead for good in the Hardee’s championship game after East had jumped out to a 12-point first quarter advantage.
Ford, a 5-9 guard, made nine treys while averaging 10 points per game during the tournament.
Good was named the MVP for the second year in a row. He made 11 treys en route to 65 points in three games while helping Crockett join Sullivan East (1999-2000) and Unicoi County (2007-08) as the only teams to win back-to-back Hardee’s titles.
Junior 5-9 guard Josh Releford is skilled and athletic. Releford can handle the ball and defend the dribble, and his arrival to the varsity late last season revealed an opportunity for the Pioneers to lessen Good’s quarterbacking burdens.
“It made us a better team with him on the floor, because it gives you another ball-handler,” Good said. “They are both competitive and they’re both unselfish.”
The 6-4, 250-pound Rains packs some punch in the paint. He was on the football team along with the likes of Martin and junior 5-11 guard TK Hill, who’ll get college offers as a running back. Hill is raw in basketball, but Good likes his toughness, and he has the athletic ability to defend.
Promising 5-foot-6 freshman point guard Will Stevens is the son of assistant coach Corbin Stevens, who played on Science Hill’s 1990 state championship team. Crockett assistant coach Damon Johnson, another member of that ’90 title team, said Stevens should have a bright future with growth and development.
Freshman 5-11 shooting guard John Kollie saw considerable time as a varsity linebacker this season. Another freshman that could contribute is 6-3 post Tyler Estepp.
Not reaching the state sectional last season after winning the district tournament helped motivate the Pioneers for a productive spring and summer, Good said. And he likes the camaraderie and chemistry of this group.
“They have a real good bond, they’re fun to coach and they’re excited about the future,” Good said. “We had a great summer. We went to Marshall, went to South Carolina and played great competition. … Hopefully, all the raising cane and everything from the past two years will allow them to reach the goals that they have. … Their goals are to compete every time out … and not to leave anything on the table.”
Good’s staff includes former University High, Morristown West and Elizabethton head coach Tony Gordon and former East Tennessee State assistant Mike Boyd.
Second-year coach Marty Story’s Lady Pioneers are looking to build on the momentum of last season’s regional tournament appearance, the program’s first since 1997. A district tournament win against rival Daniel Boone punched David Crockett’s ticket, highlighting a 10-20 season at a program that had gone 10-98 previously.
“It was big,” Story said. “Personally, I felt like they could do it. … Hopefully, we can duplicate something similar.”
A five-senior class that won 20 games for Story when he was the junior-varsity coach is cause for optimism.
Senior guards Lily Ayers and Chelsey Ford are primed for productive seasons. Ayers can play either guard slot and shoots well from long range. Ford led the team in scoring this past summer.
Senior 5-foot-11 post Brooke Ervin is a returning starter, and 5-foot-8 wing Chelsea Day was a part-time starter in 2014-15.
Ashley Ervin, a 5-foot-10 senior, is also starting in the post, where Story should develop depth with 5-foot-10 freshman Kara Weems.
Sophomore point guard Kassie Lowe will be on the court a lot, as will junior wing Macy Morton.
Big Seven preseason favorite Daniel Boone has made considerable strides with sophomore guard Macie Culbertson healthy. It will be eager to play Crockett.
“Who would’ve ever thought we would beat Boone two out of three times (last season),” Story said. “Boone’s strong, without a doubt.”
Still, a taste of postseason success has Crockett wanting more.
“They liked what they achieved,” Story said. “I think it made them hungrier to not only achieve that again, but to overachieve … and take it a step further.”