Thompson Boys Basketball Eyes Area Tournament, Postseason
Dru Powell and the Thompson Warriors have been together for three years, but this has likely been the most challenging year by far. It goes beyond Covid-19 and the lost workouts from the offseason. Despite bringing back four senior starters, many guys have had to provide valuable minutes off the bench to contribute without having real, tangible varsity experience before this season.
To Powell, the distinction between the team he began the season with and the group of young men he has now is the chemistry they’ve been able to form in a very short time without the luxury of preseason preparation.
“I think the difference was that in November we had four guys playing that had experience on a varsity roster,” says Powell. “We’re at the point of our season where we’ve had time to mesh together and that’s something we’ll continue to work on, but we entered the season with some guys that hadn’t played together a lot and losing the summer kind of hurt that as well.”
The team is slowly evolving into their final form.
“I think it’s a work in progress to continue to get guys playing together and learning how each other plays.”
As the team’s cohesiveness comes together the boys have been in a lot of close battles together. Seven of their 17 games have been decided by six points or less and while those include highlight wins over 6A no. 7 Calera and previously undefeated 4A no. 1 Anniston, it has also accounted for five of their seven losses.
Thompson nearly led the entire contest in huge matchups between 7A no. 3 Spain Park and no. 1 Fairhope only for them to slip away by eight points combined. Coach Powell knows his team is very close to flipping the script in big games like that which will be huge for their postseason hopes, but also knows there’s still time for them to come together as a unit.
“We’ve certainly had more than our fair share of close losses and that’s something we’re working very hard on,” says Powell. “That’s something we know we have to improve on and the good news is we’ve still got a little bit of time to do that and get ready for the area tournament in February.”
The team is learning the value of every moment in these games and how important it is every time they have the ball in their hand.
“We try to talk about: every possession matters. A lot of times we’ll discuss the final possession of games, but each possession of the game is very important,” says Powell. “We’ve played several games where the difference was five points or less and as you look at each of those games one or two stats jump out at you. The game against Fairhope we went 3 of 20 from three point range and we’re certainly a better shooting team than that.”
Even with the experience the Warriors returned from the 2019-20 season, the continuity has been beleaguered due to key injuries and adding new players here and there from the JV and football teams as the year has progressed. The team’s starting point guard, senior and leading scorer Grant Hopkins had had to deal with a lingering injury since December and has just been activated for the final stretch of the season and the area schedule.
While finding players to replace Hopkins’ production on the hardwood, Powell acknowledges the effect he has on the team goes beyond baskets and assists.
“Grant has only played a couple of games since December so as we all know you don’t just jump back into playing at this level and be your old self so we understand there’s going to be a little rust there,” said Powell. “But what people may or may not see is the leadership Grant brings to our team whether he’s on the floor or not on the floor. He’s a great kind and a hard worker and certainly missed him when he was out and eagerly awaited his return so we’re just hoping he can stay healthy and lead this team into the postseason.”
The other seniors have stepped up in Hopkins’ absence, Brad Lewis is averaging near a double double and is an imposing defensive presence in the paint despite projecting as a guard or small forward at the next level.
“Brad is another great kid, he’s in the gym a lot of mornings at 6 a.m. working on his game and he’s bought into the role he’s been given here,” said Powell. “He’ll play in the post if we need him to or step out on the wing and he’s just a complete player, a leader for our team and willing to do whatever it takes to help us win.”
Another key player for the Warriors coming down the stretch is Wes Roberson. Coming up from junior varsity level last year, Roberson is a dangerous player with great height, length and is one of the best shooters from long range.
“Coming up from JV last year, Wes has not only dealt with that transition, but we’ve asked him to fill quite a large role on varsity,” says Powell. “There’s obviously a learning curve trying to find his way through, he was a more of a catch and shoot guy at the beginning of the year, but he’s improved tremendously with putting the ball on the floor and finishing around the rim. He’s embraced that role and he’s rebounding and communicating better on defense as well.”
Senior Jack Dorolek is one of the premier shooters from beyond the arc in the state and he’s vital to a postseason run for Thompson.
“Jack’s a guy everybody in the program trusts to take a big shot with the game on the line because he’s been a great scorer at the high school level for three years,” says Powell. “He’s got experience, he isn’t scared of the moment and he’ll be a key piece for us for the remainder of the season and I look forward to seeing him hit some big shots.”
The Warriors can feel the moment approaching as the postseason lies on the horizon. If the pieces to the puzzle can come together it could equal a lengthy run to the playoffs.