ROWLAND — With a late start due to the football team making the second round of the state playoffs, South Robeson coach Ryan Bullard is behind the eight-ball entering his first season with the team.
Bullard enters his first season as the boys basketball coach, where he has been at the school for five seasons as a baseball coach, and now takes over for a team that last season went 4-18, and 2-12 in conference play. He brings with him a new style and more structure to a team that returns most of its scoring and experience from a season ago.
“If they can learn my style of coaching and run the system that I’m trying to teach them, I think they will be OK,” Bullard said. “They’re learning to a style they are not used to and have a little more structure. They have the discipline and they are going to be OK.”
The Mustangs return the scoring of Jaleel Lesane and Cameron Werrell from last year. Werrell almost averaged a double-double last season with 12 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and Lesane added 12 points per game as well.
Those two add to the guard corps of senior Jaurius Davis and sophomores Daniel Murray and Zach Carter.
“I think they can play at a high level of basketball at some point this season, but they’ve got to learn and get the chemistry,” Bullard said. “I’m excited about this group. Thy’ve got some size and some good guard types. But if they don’t learn to play together, it doesn’t matter how much talent you got.”
In all, Bullard likes the depth of the team that has athletes that can play at different positions on the floor.
“I’m looking like I might play nine or 10 guys,” Bullard said. “They will be a fun team to watch. I don’t think they will be an easy out for anybody.”
Bullard played at Lumberton under coach Ted Gaskins and is taking some of the philosophies and styles that he learned as as a player to his coaching style.
He feels that the unit he has fits into the mold he wants on the defensive side of the ball.
Last year, the Mustangs averaged eight steals a game as a team.
“I think defense is going to be a strength for us this year because of the speed combined with the size,” Bullard said. “We will be able to press. I come from a coach that liked to press, Coach Gaskins was my coach in high school, so they will be seeing a lot of pressure.”
Lady Mustangs return extra experience this year
Last year was the third time in Lula Ratley’s tenure at South Robeson that the girls basketball program did not post a winning mark. The Lady Mustangs eye getting above .500 with a more experienced roster this season.
“I have more that played before, last year I only had two girls that had ever played varsity,” Ratley said. “That situation I was very young and inexperienced, but I’m a little more experienced this year. I have two juniors and over a quarter of the team is sophomores, with one senior.”
Juniors Nytia Lewis and Zaneta Ellerbee, along with sophomores Tellia Page and Hailey Werrell are the only four players that were on the team last year. Lewis and Werrell in the post last season both averaged more than six points per game, and Lewis contributed seven rebounds a game.
While most experience returns for the Lady Mustangs in the post, she likes the feel of the young players entering the program at the guard position.
“I really just have one main guard that played for me last year, that was Tellia, but I’ve had a corps of girls that just came up and can handle the ball,” Ratley said. “I feel more comfortable because I think I’ve got more ball handlers this year that can help us get the ball down the floor. There’s quite a few athletes.”
Finishing the season 3-18 last season without a win in conference play, South Robeson looks to return to form this season and bounce back from the struggles it had a year ago.
“We want to get better each game and learn from our mistakes,” Ratley said. “We are very young, but we want to get better each game. We want to be more competitive this year.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.