No. 12 Jacksonville’s Pressure Defense Leads to 23-0 Start For Indians
JACKSONVILLE -- Whenever the subject of Jacksonville athletics is brought up, the conversation usually begins with football and the legacy left behind by the three McCown brothers, who went on star at quarterback in both college and the NFL.
These days, it's the boys basketball team laying the foundation for future generations to talk about.
Jacksonville enters Friday's District 16-4A opener against Lindale with a perfect 23-0 record and a No. 12 ranking by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“We knew we had a good group coming back," Jacksonville coach Brent Kelley said. "Did we expect 23-0? No. It’s certainly been a fun start, but we’ve survived a few games that we probably shouldn’t have won. You’ve got to be lucky in that run too, and we’ve had some good fortunate happen to us.”
The Indians, two years removed from a regional tournament appearance, have compiled a 96-28 record in Kelley's four years as head coach. And pressure defense has become the program's calling card.
“We rely on our defense, it’s what we spend the majority of our time on," Kelley said. "Our press has been good to us. We’re averaging about 25 forced turnovers a game. And anytime you can turn your opponent over that much, not only does it take 25 shots away from them, but it gives you a chance to score in transition and that’s when we’re at our best -- when we’re out and running and the game is up and down. We control the tempo of it.”
Much of the defensive pressure if left to Jacksonville's trio of three-year starters -- seniors Kadarius Buckingham, Dadrian Franklin and Londedric Taylor.
“We press, so we try to get you to hurry and speed the process up," said Buckingham, a 6-4 post. "They’re in such a hurry to pass the ball, they throw it away because no one’s there. If they break the press in our defense, our mindset is to never let them touch the paint and just stick with your man.”
Like any good press, it is multi-layered.
“Londedric Taylor leads us in steals and Raybon Riden, they’re both at about 2.5 per game," Kelley said. "They play the spy position in our press, kinda the free safety-type guy in football. The back end of the press is very important. Teams are going to break it and they’re going to have 2-on-1 situations and you’ve got to have a guy back there willing to take some charges and Kadarius Buckingham leads the team in charges. He’s taken about 15 or 16, so almost one a game.
“The front guy of the press is your energy guy and that’s Dadrian Franklin. He leads us in deflections, which is a big stat for us. If we’re getting our hands on balls, that means we’re disrupting their timing in the press break and we’ve got a chance to go get the steals.”
The high energy usually lends itself to wearing down opponents.
“We always practice hard," Taylor said. "When we practice real hard, it’s kinda like the games. We’re good defensively in practice, and when the game comes, we’re used to the speed.”
And when Jacksonville's defense is turning up the heat, an easy fastbreak layup or dunk on the other end normally follows.
“Our defense has been clicking because we’ve just been stopping people from scoring," Franklin said. "Once we make a stop, we got into the fastbreak and get points (in transition).”
Jacksonville's pressure 'D' figures to be challenged in district, especially against John Tyler and Whitehouse, which both feature outstanding, ball-handling guards.
“It’s tough pressing teams like that," Kelley said. "They do a great job and they’re well coached. It’s what we do all year, it’s what we rely on. Everybody’s got to be on the same page. If one person messes up on the rotation on defense, whether it’s halfcourt or full-court press, the team’s going to have a layup because those guys are good enough to find them and they’re going to convert."
Controlling the tempo is important for Jacksonville, which struggles at times executing in the halfcourt, Kelley admitted.
"In close games, to win a district championship or win a playoff game, it’s possession by possession," he said. "You’ve got to get big buckets at the end of the ballgame, and that’s where we faltered last year. We had nine losses and five of those nine losses were by a combined 13 points."
That's one reason Jacksonville players aren't celebrating their undefeated start as much.
“We can’t worry about what the 23-0 is, because district starts and everybody’s 0-0," Taylor said. "We’ve got to start off by just taking it one game at a time.”