BTW Hornets Experiencing Turnaround After Struggling Throughout Last Season
By Mike Moguin
GTR Sports Writer
Talk about a 180-degree turnaround.
Booker T. Washington is doing that after going 2-10 last year with 11 other games canceled due to COVID. The Hornets were 14-1 this season as of Jan. 28 and ranked first in the Class 6A boys basketball poll by ossaarankings.com.
“I think the key to the biggest turnaround is the style of play that we’re playing this year,” second-year coach Eli Brown said. “We’re picking guys up, pressing 32 minutes a game and shooting a lot better.
We’re much more aggressive on both ends of the floor and it’s really boded well for the personnel that we have this year. We’re small, so we have to be aggressive like that on both ends of the floor.”
Hard lessons were learned last season, Brown said.
I think last year’s team was a mixture of two or three guys who saw some game time and experience, and the rest of the team was very inexperienced because they didn’t see the floor,” Brown said. “We were trying to bring the two together. There was a lot of trying to mature and mold the two together and then having the COVID issues that we had last year. We only played 12 games. That means we missed 11.”
Different guys have stepped up for us on different nights, the coach said.
“But in particular, you got guys like Kam Parker (6-1, senior, guard), who has been phenomenal for us this year,” Brown said. “You can consider him a 3 and D guy, which means he can shoot the 3 and he will defend. He works hard and rebounds, he does a lot of the little things that we need from him. He’ll guard the best player, he’ll rebound and take charges, he’ll do all those things, so he’s been beneficial to us.
“Aaron Potter (6-4, senior, guard), who transferred in from Owasso this year, has been very beneficial to us as well. He is like the Energizer Bunny. He plays a million miles an hour and has tons of energy,” Brown said. “He can shoot it and rebound it. He’s tough, aggressive and he’s got that mentality, which has trickled down to the rest of the team as well.
“Ijai Johnson (6-2, senior, guard) was my point guard, who also rebounded well, guarded multiple guys and shot the ball a lot better this year,” Brown said. “Those three guys have really stepped up.
Another player who has emerged is Latham Boone (6-0, junior, guard), Brown said.
“He has really shot lights out as of late and has been the guy that has done all the little things throughout the whole season to help us win,” Brown said. “He made critical free throws, got big rebounds, took charges, added some shooting to his game and became a fourth threat.
Those four guys have been able to keep defenses at bay because at any point any of those four can go off.”
A key game for Booker T. Washington this season came against Jenks, when the Hornets beat the then-No. 1 Trojans, 61-48, on their floor in the final of the Jenks/Union Invitational.
“We knew it would be tough and difficult. But we welcome the challenge because they were No. 1 and we were trying to establish ourselves as a contender,” the coach said.
“Latham really emerged in that game. We just caught fire in that third and fourth quarter and we just took off from there and our defense was impeccable,” Brown added.
Brown and his team know they have more challenges ahead to keep the wins coming, a No. 1 ranking and ultimately, win a state championship. The regular season ends on Feb. 18 with the playoffs starting the following week.
Credit for the team’s success goes to the players, his assistants, as well as help from the parents, Brown said.