‘Dores starting over under Sherman
Lafayette is looking for a turnaround on the basketball court, and the Commodores have turned to a familiar face to help them in that effort.
The Commodores are coming off a season that came and went without a single win and followed shortly thereafter with a coaching change. Out went Nacoma James, who resigned following Lafayette’s winless campaign, and in stepped John Sherman, a veteran of the area who came to Lafayette from Water Valley last season to coach the varsity girls before switching teams in the summer.
Fall practice is nearly over with the Commodores set to tip off the season at home Tuesday against Vardaman, and with many key cogs still on the football field, Lafayette’s focus during workouts has been a defense that will need to be strong all year, particularly in the early going.
But the first order of business for Sherman had nothing to do with anything on the court.
“Everybody’s got to be all in,” Sherman said. “It’s a whole different deal, especially after an unsuccessful season. But they’ve got to be willing to do some things differently because maybe what they were doing just wasn’t working. We just made them realize that everybody has to be all in and trust us, and we’ll go from there.”
The Commodores will rely on a mix of old and new players to provide the offense. Forward Quin Jones along with guards Rashuan Rockette, Tyler Williams and Tay Tay Owens return as starters, though all are on Lafayette’s football team and won’t suit up until the Commodores’ playoff run is over.
Lafayette will look to a handful of newcomers in the meantime in big men Chris Long, who didn’t play last season, and Hogan Linzy, a transfer from Oxford. Mack Bishop, Jonah Matlock and Xxavier Hill will log a majority of the minutes on the perimeter to give the Commodores what Sherman believes will be a balanced offensive attack.
“We feel like we’ll be able to score inside and out,” Sherman said. “I don’t know what style that is, but we’ve got some guys that can score in the post, and we’re hoping we’ve got some guys that can make some outside shots.”
But Sherman is counting on the defense-first mentality that’s become a trademark of all of his teams to help Lafayette create some instant offense from its pressure, a glaring omission from the Commodores’ game a season ago.
“If you’re going to turn the program around, you’ve got to start with what I feel is good, sound, basic defense,” Sherman said. “That’s what we’ve really tried to work on most of the summer.
“Whether it was good last year or not so good last year, it’s what you’ve got to have to win ballgames.”
The Commodores will start the season with nine players, all of whom helped Lafayette have a successful tuneup. Lafayette knocked off West Union and North Pontotoc on Saturday in preseason jamborees, and while neither will count in the win column, Sherman called it “a big step” in hopes of a springboard for a vastly different season for the Commodores.
“They’ve got to be willing to do things they haven’t done,” Sherman said. “If they’re willing to do those things they’ve got to do to be successful, then anything’s possible. The playoffs are possible. A winning season is possible.”