By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Last year the Munford Cougars were led by a man who coached more than 30 years worth of TSSAA basketball.
Butch Hopkins stepped down from his post as head coach of the Cougars opening the door for 26-year-old Ryan Ross. Now the Munford players have worked during the preseason under the guidance of the McEwen High School graduate.
“They’ve adjusted well,” Ross said. “Whenever there’s a coaching change, there will be some adjustments. In basketball, there many ways to win. They are hungry to win and they are ready for success. They have really bought in.”
Ross arrived on campus in Tipton County from the college ranks as the assistant head coach at Lee University.
Before grabbing a dress shirt in Cleveland, Tenn., Ross wore the uniform for Lee University as a shooting guard. Now he brings his coaching and playing experience to the Cougars.
“Things have been going great,” he said. “The guys have really seem to be buying in to getting the culture we really want here. Which is blue-collar playing a tough, physical brand of basketball.
“They’ve been putting in great work in the weight room and as far as increasing our speed and agility,” Ross added. “They will be cranked up with official practice.”
Last time spectators saw the Munford Cougars on the court, the players were using a patient method to compete and win games under Hopkins. Ross said the 2015-16 Cougars will pick up the pace some.
“We’re going to get out and run on stops,” he said. “Everything will start with our defense. That was really my assignment as a assistant coach in college. It’s going to start there. We want to get stops to get out and run.”
Ross said the tempo the Cougars will be dictated by point guard Queyon Mills.
“We’re going to really rely on him,” he noted. “He has to have a good year in order for us to have a good year.”
Mills will be looking for weapons like Dominique Bell and Alex Jones to give the Cougars a chance to win in District 13-3A.
“Alex Jones gives us some size and athleticism back there,” Ross said. “We’ll play with a team-defense philosophy. We’ll try to keep people from getting back there. Hopefully we’ll be pretty hard to get into the lane on. We want to force teams to take outside shots contested. Because we don’t have a lot of great size, so it has to be team-defense.”
As Ross learns about his new league featuring Brighton, Dyer County and Hardin County, he said as long as his players establish a strong defense they will be fine.
“I feel I have been educated as best as I can be without seeing them,” Ross said. “By the time we roll around to playing them, I feel we’ll have a good grasp on them. I know the Gatlin kid at Brighton can really go. Dyer County has a great tradition of winning. They will be athletic. Hardin County has been good and they’ll have some kids who can go.”
Ross does know he wants to grab one of those top two spots in league to avoid a road trip to Arlington, Cordova or Bolton in February.
“It’s going to be a season-long process for us,” he said. “About the time season comes along, I want our guys to play with the effort we expect. And they’re learning that everyday.
“We want to be the hardest playing team in the state,” Ross concluded. “As the season rolls around, I want us to be more comfortable in the system and have better execution.”