Categorized | Sports

Cardinal Basketball ready to take next step

By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Alex Malone

Alex Malone

The Brighton Cardinals took another step forward last year in year two of The Stan Gatlin Era.
Those familiar with the career of “The Mad Gatter” know during his days coaching the Millington Lady Trojans in the 2000s, his third season ended in the Class 3A Girls State Tournament championship game in 2008. Fast forward 9 years, Gatlin is hoping his third year in Brighton will end with parallel success.
“We definitely want to win the district,” he said. “But we definitely want to make it to the Region championship game. We feel we’ve got a good chance of competing well. We’ve tailor our schedule to see some of those teams we might play in the Regionals.
“We’re playing Cordova this year at Cordova,” Gatlin added. “We’re going to Bartlett this year. We’re playing some nationally ranked players like Olive Branch. We’re playing Briarcrest, a private school power. Center Hill is always a State contender in Mississippi. Then we’ll play some quality teams in the MLK Tournament.”
The Cardinals will face a tough schedule leading up to District 13-3A play against league foes Hardin County, Dyer County and Munford.
“It’s a tough game every night in our league,” Gatlin said. “Dyer County lost a lot from last year but they have that big boy inside. Hardin County still have a couple of guards that shoot really well. Munford it’s always a tough game with them.”
To navigate the entire 2016-17 slate, Gatlin is hoping to have his talented junior trio clicking in all phases of the game. The Class of 2018 features standouts Zach Lewis, Aaron Alston and Taelyr Gatlin.
“This summer was different for Taelyr because I’m forcing him to shoot the ball more,” Coach Gatlin said. “He naturally wants to just pass the ball. He has to get out of that. He has to bring more to the table than just passing. Obviously he’s a very efficient scorer. And the other guys understand that too that there are games he needs to score more.”
The younger Gatlin found his scoring touch this summer leading all players in points at the MUS Summer Camp. Zach Lewis was another player shining at MUS and other stops this past summer.
“He’s unbelievable,” Gatlin noted. “I’m so proud of the growth he has made in basketball. All it took was playing with us during the summer and building his confidence.
“He played with us all this summer and his game has improved so much,” he continued. “At times, unless you see the number, you think it’s Taelyr. Their games are so similar. I would say he’s faster with the ball than Taelyr.”
Lewis’ sharpen skills complimented the natural ability of Alston all summer.
“His jumping ability has improved so much and now he plays above the rim much more,” Gatlin said. “He had so many dunks this summer. What you saw toward the end of the season… Oh my gosh now they are throwing alleys to each other.”
The team chemistry is developing across the board for the Cardinals with Alex Malone, Ethan Bell, Dominick Harris and Jordan Johnson.
Harris and Johnson are young players with potential and will be counted on to provide outside scoring. Bell can fill up the bucket proving it over the summer leading Brighton in scoring on occasion. And Malone might be the best on-the-ball defender on the squad.
With all the pieces coming together, Gatlin said team will focus on defense and running the offense in hopes of reaching new levels of success at Brighton.
“It can be that special,” he said. “It’s going to take us not being injured. But as far as the guys liking to play with each other, these guys like to play together. Them wanting to win and be good, that reminds me a lot of my Millington days. That’s how you build a basketball program.
“They made me look like a genius when it really was just them,” Gatlin concluded. “They were magnificent group of kids back then. And these kids here have that same kind of potential.”

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