Lima Senior head coach Quincey Simpson is focused on the small things this year that he hopes produce big results.
Last season the Spartans, led by Three Rivers Athletic Conference Player of the Year Josiah Fulcher, garnered a share of the conference title with a 12-2 mark and a 22-5 overall record that led to Lima Senior making it to the Division I regional finals.
Simpson said one of the reasons for last year’s successful second half run was the skill work and the team’s effort that the team put in and he is hoping some of that spills into this season but is quick to point out that last year was last year and there is plenty to still work on to match this team’s goals and expectations.
“Over the summer the guys worked extremely hard, and we did a lot of team camps, and we got in the gym quite a bit so we hope that will be a factor in a successful season,” Simpson said. “Guys started trusting a lot more. Guys started sharing the ball. Guys started buying into what their roles were in the second half of the season.”
Simpson said as they enter practice the players will have to once again define their roles on a veteran squad that returns pretty much the entire roster.
Two players that will be missed will be Jaleel King and Amir Curtis who Simpson said provided leadership and were instrumental both on and off the court.
“We lost Jaleel King and Amir Curtis which we consider glue guys,” Simpson said. “These guys did a lot that is not seen on that stat sheets.”
Simpson added that King is a primary example of a player who sacrifices for the team when he let Fulcher and Jamir Simpson take the lead on scoring while King contributed in a variety of different ways. Curtis and King provided hard-nosed defense and that is a void that will need to be filled.
Simpson said the process of identifying roles is happening in scrimmages and early practices.
“It is our job as coaches to kind of build that wall around the team and make sure every one can buy in and not allow distractions and interference to kind of jeopardize what we believe can be a really good year,” Simpson said.
Another area Simpson must work on his keeping his team grounded. After last year, the team is brimming with confidence, which is a good thing, but the Spartan head coach does not want them taking things for granted.
“You have to keep guys accountable,” Simpson said. “These guys think I am extremely hard on them right now because I am calling out every little mistake. I want them to understand in order to win a conference championship. in order to make it to Columbus great teams are great at the small things. Great teams collectively do every thing together and do those things that you don’t see on the stat sheet. I’m a stickler for the small things and hopefully it can pay off in the end.”
With a veteran group Simpson sees a lot of potential.
Fulcher, who has committed to Bowling Green, and Jamir Simpson, also a first-team All-TRAC performer, will spearhead the Spartan attack. Fulcher averaged 17.1 points a game last year.
“I think Josiah should be in the running for Mr. Basketball,” Simpson said. “He is our best player. We believe Jamir is our most versatile player.”
Also back is Jourdyn Rawlings and Simpson described him as the best on the ball and off the ball defender and added that he ranks up their with his son, Xavier.
Senior Jadakis Mack, who Simpson said is the Spartans’ most athletic player, and Khalil Luster, who Simpson said is the team’s craftiest player, are also back.
“Everybody brings something different to the table,” Simpson said.
New to the squad is Dante Wheeler, who transferred from Elida. Simpson said he feels he can be the team’s match-up player.
“We can post him up or he can step out and hit the three, Simpson said. “Dante has been good for us in the classroom and on the court.”
Other key role guys that Simpson said will contribute will be sophomore Cam Miles and seniors Da’San Clair and Caymien Durr.
“We like the guys that we have,” Simpson said. “We have some younger guys that will get some minutes here and there but it is no secret that our top seven and eight guys can play the game of basketball. We just have to make sure they play well, play together and play fast.”
Simpson said one of the strengths of this roster is that all these players are interchangeable and feels the team has quickness.
Simpson admits that the defense is a lot chaotic but he expected this but added that once the team starts clicking it will be hard for teams to score on them or keep them off the glass.
“We have to have more patience because we want to play extremely fast,” Simpson said. “But we also have to execute patience when we don’t have those fast opportunities. It is not going to be a well-oiled machine come game one or game two and it is going to take us five or six games. It does every year and then hopefully by that point we can be off and running.”