By Thomas Sellers Jr.
One bad break can change any season when it comes to sports.
Last season, the Brighton Cardinals learned that lesson when standout freshman Taelyr Gatlin suffered a knee injury. His Dad Stan Gatlin’s first season as the leader of the Cardinals took a setback.
But the elder Gatlin used the injury as a chance to develop more young talent for the future. The future is now with the 2015-16 season on the brink.
“Last season went as good as to be expected,” Gatlin said. “You lose a dynamic player like Taelyr Gatlin, he was obviously the glue of our team. Everyone plays so much better when he’s out there.
“But with him going out, I think we did well,” he continued. “We were able to finish third in the district and third in the district tournament. We had been finishing fourth. The last two years Brighton won five games. Last year we won 11. So it was some improvement there.”
Brighton’s improvement has some picking them to take a top two spot in District 13-3A this season to host a Regional game in February.
Before Brighton reaches that point, Gatlin said he is working with a mixture of players who established themselves last season and a few newcomers.
“We have Tramaine Cooper, Colby Butler, Taeylr Gatlin, Zach Lewis and we have Aaron Alston and Ethan Bell,” Gatlin said. “Those are some guys I’m expecting some quality minutes from. They will be a part of the rotation as part of the starting five.
“We have some guys coming in as freshmen,” he added. “Dominique Harris shoots the ball extremely well. I’m expecting to see some big things from him as well.”
Gatlin also noted another name to look out for is Spencer Cartwright. But most opposition will be gearing up to stop the backcourt of Cooper and Gatlin.
“I’m expecting them to dominant and impose their will a lot,” Gatlin said. “Our offense is not just geared toward two people. Don’t get that impression. We’re definitely spreading the ball around. The game is a lot more fun when everybody is shooting the ball and gets a chance to showcase their abilities.”
Gatlin noted his players have improved their shot consistency, form, rotation and selection during the offseason. He added the team will feature athleticism all over the floor.
“Zach Lewis, he’s a guard,” Gatlin said. “But he’s having to play the four and the five. He can jump. He’s been working hard on that. He rebounds like a mad man.”
Lewis and the rest of the Cardinals on the court better keep their hands ready to catch a pass from the younger Gatlin. Before his injury, Taelyr gained a reputation for tossing lasers through the defense and locating teammates seemed impossible to find.
“He was able to see some things (while injured) that he wasn’t able to see as a player,” the elder Gatlin noted. “He mentioned that to me. ‘I remember you saying certain things while I was playing. I really didn’t understand. But I see it now sitting on the bench and watching.’ He learned to be more of a coach. That’s definitely going to help him out even more on the floor.”
If all the pieces stay healthy, Gatlin said his 2015-16 Cardinals can live up to the expectations of hosting a Regional game and making a playoff push to Murfreesboro.
“I expect us to have a strong postseason push,” he concluded. “We have some tough teams in our Region. I really expect a State Tournament berth.”