Men’s Basketball: Coach wants to increase team aggressiveness, open offense

He looked up from the table where the trainer hovered, preparing the players for practice.”Yeah, I have lots of goals,” sophomore guard Jason Ebie said as a smile crawled across his face. “I have goals of us winning more than 25 games.”

Health and depth are commodities the men’s basketball team might have been lacking at the guard position, but now that he has both, head coach Neil Dougherty said he intends to use it to the fullest.

Dougherty said he wants to open up the offense and be more aggressive on both sides of the ball.

“Everything is going to be much more up-tempo,” Dougherty said. “We are going to push the ball hard offensively and pressure defensively.”

This will be a departure from the containment style of defense the Horned Frog guards played as of late, he said.

Dougherty said it will mean coming after people on defense, getting in the passing lanes and bringing a quicker pace on offense with more of a transitional style of play.

Ebie said this style of a play is a natural fit for the guards on the team.

“Using this scheme will open up opportunities for other players all over the court,” Ebie said.

The aggressive system has every guard on the team fired up, but senior Brent Hackett, last year’s leading scorer at guard, said he is really looking forward to it.

“It’s a guard’s dream,” Hackett said. “Most college coaches will try to limit their players to a certain extent. But Coach D has kind of given me the green light with a caution: You have to know the difference between a good shot and a bad shot.”

Dougherty said he is looking for leadership and toughness from Hackett, a starter for the past three seasons.

Leading by example, Hackett said he makes sure he is at all the workouts, is around the team and shows dedication to making himself a better player.

Hackett is glad to have the spotlight on him and to be a leader on this team, but he said he knows it won’t mean anything if he doesn’t come through for the team.

“I still have to deliver and hold up to my name,” Hackett said.

Dougherty wants Hackett to be aggressive with the basketball on both sides of the floor but said his top priority remains at putting points on the scoreboard.

In order to accomplish these goals, the team has worked hard on conditioning and decision-making.

“I’ve been working on my mind, trying to grow mentally as a player,” Hackett said.

To prepare for the new scheme, Ebie said, he is utilizing the coach’s and past players’ knowledge to help him be successful.

Giving the group a new dimension will be junior transfer student Henry Salter, who, at 6 feet 4 inches and 215 pounds, is bigger than any guard on the roster.

“We haven’t had a big physical guard,” Dougherty said. “He rebounds on both ends, he’s long and he’s a good defender.”

Helping man the point this season will be sophomore Martiese Morones and senior Ryan Wall. Wall was among the team leaders in free-throw shooting and fourth in points scored last season coming off the bench, while Morones saw floor time in 17 games last year.

Senior Neiman Owens will be playing at guard again this year and was a regular starter during the last campaign. The three-time letterman notched a double-double against Colorado State tallying 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Sophomore shooting guard Keion Mitchem saw playing time in half of the games as a freshman yet still was fourth in three-pointers for the Horned Frogs in 2006-07.