By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Several years around the game, Millington Trojans Head Basketball Coach Jewell Gates has seen many different types of preseasons.
From a Southwind team that won it all to a group of young men trying to establish a program, Gates knows the challenges of preparing for a TSSAA basketball season. But entering the 2020-21 campaign, Gates and his colleagues are adjusting on the fly amidst a global pandemic.
“Nothing about this since March has been run of the mill,” Gates said. “No summer, not really. No fall, at least not the normal way you do things. There will not be scrimmages in early November. There will not be a jamboree the weekend before you start games. All we’re going to do is play a game on Nov. 17. There’s nothing normal about this.
“When you’re dealing with three or four new guys, that court time is very important,” he added. “How many minutes in actuality are loss? I really couldn’t tell you. We missed the teamwork part, coming together and finding out who each other are. That’s stuff we didn’t get to experience because we didn’t get to play summer games.”
The Trojans were limited to individual workouts giving Gates a chance to work with each player one-on-one. Millington had no games and no contact until Nov. 3.
“We’re probably one of the few schools that didn’t have contact until Nov. 3,” Gates noted. “I guarantee you that. Some schools might have been having contact since June. We weren’t going to. We were following the rules and trying to keep these young men safe.”
As the Trojans slowly build up to 5-on-5 drills, the veteran coach took a moment to look down the road of the 2020-21 season.
“We’re going to behind, I’ll tell you that,” he acknowledged. “We’re going to struggle probably until early December. I hope it all will be over by early December. We’re going to be a team that has to learn each other and learn me.”
Gates will count on several players to log minutes throughout the season starting with seniors Jackson Powell and Aaron Ransom. Then underclassmen like Diego Reyes and Seth Grandberry have to be ready to play with expectations and being the focus of opponents scouting reports.
“Seth Grandberry is not going to be wide open anymore shooting jumpers,” Gates noted. “Those days are over. That’s gone. Now he has to understand how to play with people coming out there to stop him.”
Reyes will be an interior presence while Grandberry will be used as a combo guard.
“It’s different playing for me that second year from that first year,” Gates acknowledged. “Can you elevate to my expectations or do you go to a downward spiral. Because I’m going to coach them and I’m going to coach all of them hard. Sometimes people can’t handle that. Everybody can’t play for Jewell Gates. Everybody ain’t cut out for it.”
Gates said his Trojans have to be tough taking on the likes of Haywood, Bolivar, Ripley and the two-time defending champs Covington Chargers.
“We will have our work cutout for us,” he said. “In January I hope to see this Millington team flying up and down the court and defending. We need bodies to do that. We just have to develop the mindset to do that. We’re quick and we have decent numbers as in eight or nine in the rotation.
We’ll have good quality depth and each position should have two of us.
“Mentally have to be tough and get the mindset of each individual in shape to be a part of one team,” Gates concluded. “Physically and mentally I have to get them in shape.”