Warriors depth and athleticism make them a tough team to face.By JESSE JOHNSON,
The Oak Grove Warriors start the basketball season looking to pick up where they left off last year. Having their best year with Coach LaRon Brumfield at the helm has Oak Grove hungry to build off of a style of play that got the Warriors a 25-win season last year.
The Warriors were above the national average last season with 62 points per game. Shooting 47 percent from the field, the Warriors put together a 25-6 record and a second-round playoff appearance.
The team will be without a couple of key players as guard Tate Ryder and Brandon Tilley graduated and moved to the next level at East Central. Ryder led the team in scoring with 11.2 ppg while Tilley shot 47 percent from three-point land.
“Losing both (Tate and Brandon) are key departures for our team,” Brumfield said. “I coached Tate since 9th grade and losing his leadership will be significant in that field. But that’s what happens. You lose kids and they move on.”
Ryder is currently a starter at East Central.
Oak Grove has started the 2019/20 campaign with a 4-1 start. The Warriors lone loss came at the hands of cross-town rival Hattiesburg Tigers 53-47.
“We are getting off to a great start this season,” Brumfield said. “I like where we are, but we have a lot to improve on and a long road ahead of us.”
Coming back at the point guard position is junior Jay Barnes. With his quickness and smooth ball control, Barnes picks up where he left off a season ago. He was tied for second in scoring last season and was second in assists during the 2018/19 season.
In the five games played, the junior point guard has increased his ppg to 15.8 and assist average to 3.
“Jay is a guy who has a potential to be a great leader for us,” Brumfield said. “He had a great work ethic in the offseason and is an overall hard worker. He played a lot for us as a sophomore, so that is big for the direction and where we are heading. We are counting on him to be a part of our success.”
Being the coach’s son has its benefits as Brumfield’s son is back and starting his senior year. Dylan Brumfield played in all 30 games last year and averaged 6 points, 1.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds per game. This year he has doubled his point average to 12.4 and is averaging 3 assists per game. He plays at the shooting guard position, which gives him a size advantage most games.
“One thing I try to do is separate the coach and parent aspect with him, which is hard to do,” coach said. “He is a versatile player and can play multiple positions on the field. When he was young he would watch NBA TV and catch some of the old school players and mimic their style of play. I have worked with him to be an inside and outside type of player and he has embraced and executed that style of play well.
Another key addition is the Forrest County Agriculture transfer, Corneilous Williams. At 6’7” he adds a big presence as a big man and can step out and shoot accurately at 10 to 15 feet.
“It taken him some time to buy into our style of play,” Brumfield said. “He has come along and created a defensive presence and rebounding factor that is much needed for our team. His versatility is also a big part of his game. He can shoot midrange and also step out and drain a three pointer. We are excited about what he can bring to the table for us.”
Williams and Blake Roberts are both back as well averaging nine points per game.
Roberts is the team’s leader and the three-point specialist. Through five games, the junior guard leads the team in three pointers made and is shooting an incredible 46 percent from three-point land.
“Blake is an incredible three-point shooter for us,” coach said. “He can spot us on a screen and shoot anywhere on the court. What is most impressive about his play is his leadership. You can teach players how to shoot but teaching someone to be a leader is something that takes a special person. Blake has stepped up in that role and is that for us.”
It’s the Warriors’ depth that might be the key piece that Oak Grove needs to make another successful year. Key shooting late in ball games depends on how fresh your legs are. The Warriors will rotate 10-12 this year and look to take advantage of the entirety of the team as they move into the middle part of the season. The more kids you can play during a ball game means adding more dimension and packages that they can execute.
“We are very deep this year,” Brumfield said. “Defense is very important. If you have 10-12 players that you can rotate in, you can allow your team to pick up full court presses and have those kids fresh for the entirety of the game. We can go 10 deep right now. This will allow us to press and keep the pressure on our opponents,”
This is Brumfield’s fifth year with the Warriors with a 66-62 record through four seasons.