By R. Alan Richardson
It’s that time again. The Morgan County Middle School basketball squads are gearing up for yet another season of the Bullpup version of roundball excitement. Over the years, the MCMS Dogs have featured some of the greats that have moved on to high school and college athletics. Athletic Director and former long-time Middle School basketball coach, Milfred Franklin, has done an outstanding job of putting together some fine coaches in all their sports and basketball is no different.
Coach Brian Cousins will enter his 10th season at the helm of the girls’ program at MCMS and is looking to repeat an unblemished season from a year ago that led to a Piedmont Athletic Conference Championship at the end of the season. Cousins is in his 19th year of teaching. His resume includes stints at Memorial Middle School in Rockdale County before coming to Madison. He has coached basketball, softball, track, and is also this year’s boys’ soccer coach for the second season. He teaches Georgia history.
Cousins said, “We lost some good players to the high school program, but we have some good ones returning as well. We’re going to carry 17 players on the roster with seven sixth graders. That group has a lot of promise and some of them will get a fair amount of playing time.” Players like returning point guard Andrea Cooper, Destiny Hunter, Mya Smith, Addison Griggs, Bailey McDaniels, Lauren Williams, Mattie Brown, Tanea Briney, Siddalee Outlaw, and others will be some of the returning familiar faces from a year ago. They will most likely carry the load for this year’s squad.
Asked if he thought the Lady Dogs could repeat their success of last season, Cousins noted, “I hope so, but it’s hard to tell. You’ve got the regular season and then the tournament which is what you really play for. It’s what matters. Putnam is always good as they play travel ball year-round, but Youth, Loganville, Carver and others will be hard to beat as well. There are really no weak sisters on the schedule. Last year we were jammed with talent with seven or eight girls that could have started for most schools.”
The head coach wants to continue his preferred style of play with the transition game offensively and pressure defense. “My job is to teach fundamentals and defense that will carry these girls over to the high school. That’s what I try to do. The ultimate goal is to get them ready for the next level.”
Boys’ head coach, Bo Larkins, graduated a ton of talented athletes from a year ago. In fact, there were 15 eighth graders that have moved on. That’s not an easy task to replace. Asked if was in a rebuilding year, he said, “I definitely think we can compete this year. This is a hard-working and coachable group of guys. When you lose players like we had, it’s always a challenge.”
The third-year head coach has a more evenly-balanced team of two sixth graders and only five eight graders this season which bodes well for future years. Missing from the lineup until around Christmas was the lone seventh grader from a year ago, Reggie Ross. The shooting guard suffered a broken collar bone in football that required surgery. His presence will be missed, but Larkins likes the makeup of this year’s group. “We have a lot of new faces, but I like their grit. A lot of these kids played football and bring that mentality to the floor. We’ve got some size and some height, but they play bigger than some of the big guys we’ve had in the past. They’re big bruisers and physical. I don’t want to call it bully-ball, but I believe our inside game will be tough inside the paint.”
Larkins mentioned Maleek Nash, Antavious Elder and DJ Smith as some players to watch and commented, “We’ll probably see a good deal of zone defense this season. Without any real zone busters, we’ll probably try to pound it inside. We’ve got to be a little more patient but still try to make things happen. We need to play with a high basketball IQ, see the floor, play together, communicate and be smarter than we have in previous years. Our margin of error won’t be quite as wide as it’s been. Last year we could make mistakes and let our athleticism make up for it.”
The coaching staff will remain intact with Tay Hyman and Michael Carter serving as assistant coaches. Larkins told us that his job and that of the coaching staff is to instill character, integrity, and hard work into these young men. “I hope to positively influence young people or maybe even be a father figure/big brother to them if that’s what they need. That’s why I went into teaching and coaching.”
The 26 year old Larkins says he might one day have ambitions of becoming a head coach, but noted that he’s completely happy where he’s at in his life right now. He said that right now those ambitions are secondary as he raises a growing family. Wife Amber is now expecting their second child. He said, “It’s exciting.”
The coach finished up the interview with these comments, “I’m looking for a good season. There are always changes within the league from one year to the next. You can usually gauge who’s going to have a pretty good basketball season by how things went in football. Monticello, Carver, Greene County, Loganville, Youth, and Social Circle will all have good teams. We’ve got so many new faces that I think we can go 10-12 deep as there are kids with different skill sets. We’ll probably play some situational lineups and substitutes based on what we need at the time.”
Morgan’s first game was against Greene County earlier in the week. Look for updates in next week’s issue of the Morgan County Citizen.