Tuesday, November 09, 2010

SPORTS>>Falcons coach seeking a few good leaders

By todd traub
Leader sports editor

North Pulaski coach Ray Cooper is looking for a player who will shoot his mouth off.

But in a good way.

Cooper is pleased with the effort his team has shown in the early going, an effort that includes a comeback victory over Jacksonville in the last game of the Red Devils jamboree at Jacksonville on Saturday.

North Pulaski rallied to win 30-26 in the two-quarter game, and the afternoon gave Cooper his first chance to evaluate the talent he has this year.

“I like the effort,” Cooper said. “We have some guys who are bigger this year, a little bit longer, so they can cause some problems defensively. On the flip side of that is the experience factor; we had way too many breakdowns.”

But that’s what jamborees are for, Cooper said, to get a look at what needs fixing.

“The good part is you can fix breakdowns,” Cooper said. “Effort and intensity is kind of hard to fix. Hopefully we’ll get those little defensive breakdowns corrected.

“I’m looking forward to having a pretty good season. It may be rough at the beginning but this group, I think they have the mentality and the toughness that once it all comes together we’ll be pretty good.”

Cooper has some major vacancies to fill from the team that reached the 5A state championship game in 2009 and reached the semifinals last year.

Chief among the departed players, for obvious reasons, is Cooper’s son and former Falcons guard Aaron, who signed with Missouri State.

“It was good and bad,” Cooper said of Aaron’s absence. “It was an empty nest. I miss him being there. Him being there for so long, it was kind of a shock not having him at practice and not having him at home. On the flip side of it, that means some of those rides home were not too good so I don’t miss that part of it.”

Joking aside, Aaron’s departure does leave the Falcons with a leadership void.

“He’s a tough guy to replace because he’s just been in that place so long and so we’re missing that leadership because he was our leader three years,” Cooper said. “So we’re kind of looking for a guy that’s going to step forward into that role and I think guys are testing the water. They don’t want to jump in yet.”

The Falcons may be seeking leadership, but they aren’t necessarily short on experience.

Senior forward Bryan Colson has been a mainstay for North Pulaski and Cooper is expecting more this year.

“He’s a senior who has started every game here since his sophomore year,” Cooper said. 

“So we’re looking for his toughness and want him to be more vocal but that’s kind of not his nature. But we’re hoping he does because he has the experience to do that.”

Also experienced is versatile junior guard Shyheim Barron, just in from playing quarterback for the Falcons’ football team.

“He is as tough a guy as I’ve ever been around,” Cooper said of Barron, who broke his thumb during football season. “He doesn’t talk a lot but as far as toughness level he’s off the charts. He played football with the cast on. He didn’t miss a beat.”

Cooper said Barron will play all guard positions and he also has high hopes for sophomore Dayshawn Watkins, who brings limited experience to one of the guard spots.

“Those three are kind of going to be the guys that we’re going to look for,” Cooper said and named one other potential team leader. “One guy that was a surprise for us was Braylon Spicer. He’s not as athletic as some of the guys but he’s smart and when he was in we were more settled so that was a pleasant surprise.”

A little settling might be good for the Falcons’ up-tempo offense, Cooper said.

“We’re trying to be up-tempo without going crazy,” Cooper said. “And right now we’re getting a little more crazy but that’s going to happen at the beginning of the year and I’ve got to be patient with these guys.”