By Chris McCarthy/Editor
The Cardinals’ break-neck style of basketball is back in full force for the 2012-13 season.
According to head coach Todd Ginn, it’s still “Batten down the Hatches”every time when the Gadsden State men’s basketball team hits the floor.
“That’s been our style since I’ve been here, and it’s going to continue to be our style,” he said. “When you can’t get the 6’8, 6’9 or 6’10 guys to play the post, you really have to run and gun. I kind of recruit to fit that mold, and that’s the way we go.”
It’s not so much that Ginn sacrifices defense for offense so much as it is that he wants to create as many scoring opportunities as possible within the game’s 40-minute time period.
“Me and [assistant coach] Scott [Ginn] game-planned a little bit last year about the defense, but this year we’re committed to pressure all game, and so far that’s led to a lot of easy baskets off turnovers or caused mistakes. We start fast defensively, which in turn helps us move fast on offense.”
Posting an overall record of 17-14, the 2011-12 Cardinals finished fourth in the Alabama Community College Conference’s North Division with a 4-8 mark. Gadsden State went 1-1 at the conference tournament.
Ginn pointed out that due to academic-related issues, he more or less had to re-structure the team for the second half of last season.
“We lost a couple of guys to grades, and that’s totally my fault in not doing what I needed to do as a coach. We kind of got off guard by some things, and it opened our eyes to some things that had to change.
The Cardinals graduated solid players in R.J. Sturkie and Max Grace – both of whom signed with Thomas University in Georgia – and All-ACCC and All-Region 22 selection Josh Gipson. Sturkie and Gipson were the team’s No. 1 and No. 2 leading scorers, while Grace was good for 11.1 points a game.
“You’re not going to replace guys like that, but every year you get several guys who commit to what we’re doing, and from that we find leaders who will step up. Last year it was mainly from Josh and Max, but this year we have more of a leadership-by-committee situation.
In terms of experience, Ginn noted that three or four of the returning nine sophomores played major minutes last season.
Returning to the fold is guard Mark Margavio from Springville, who is 13 games last season averaged 12 points and 4.5 rebounds, guard Collin Langley, and forward Terrence Lee, a Baton Rouge native who was selected to the All-ACCC North second team last season, led the team in rebounds at 7.2 per game while averaging 10.6 points.
“Matt is one of those guys who is very blessed athletically,” said Ginn. “He can shoots the lights out, and he’s in the best shape of his life right now and committed to playing defense. Teams have to be aware of where Matt is at all times, which really opens up the floor for the other guys.
“Terrence and Collin are always the leaders in every category that not in the stat book. Those two guys get the caused mistakes, the pressure that leads to a bad pass that leads to a basket or the read that leads to the other team throwing the ball out of bounds and us getting possession.”
The other returning sophomores are guard and Westbrook Christian graduate Stephon Daniels, guard Zach Owens, forward Deddrick Lovelace, guard Alex Parker and forward Xavier Brantley.
Langley, Parker, Owens and Lovelace all averaged more than six points per game last season.
“You’re not going to find someone very often like Stephon who’s going to get after it on defense like he does,” said Ginn. “He takes it as a personal challenge to shut folks down. Then you look at Zach, who is a physically strong guard who can score and play defense. Deddrick started last year at the five-spot, and he’s a guy that’s undersized but really plays hard. Alex is back where he needs to be, and Xavier gives us vital minutes off the bench.”
Another sophomore is guard Kenrick McCants, a 2010 Gadsden City graduate who played at Northwest Shoal Community College before the program was shut down last season.
“Kenrick has really bought in,” said Ginn. “He a tough, tough kid who can really score the basketball at the point.”
Ginn’s eight-member freshmen class features a pair of local products in Gadsden City’s Dan Blackburn and Glencoe’s Jacob Freeman, as well as Ryne Wester (Oneonta), Chance McCarver (Section), Sloan Garner (Piedmont), Christian Treece (Skyline), Stedman Scott (Talladega) and Stefan Hunter (Saks).
Ginn pointed out that Blackburn and Freeman are both “older” freshmen that have been out of the game for a year.
“That’s one of the things we try to do around here – get a few guys that are hungry to play ball again. They’ve both come from local programs that are good, and they’ve worked hard and given us valuable minutes. Wester is pure scorer, and McCarver is the record holder in the state for 3-pointers. Both are coach’s kids, so you know what you’ll get from them. Garner is a wide-open player who can play down low and shoot the ‘3.’ Treece is real athletic. Scott is a big-body guy who is very fundamental and real solid. He’s also almost automatic at the free-throw line.”
With regard to the Cardinals’ regular season conference schedule, Ginn said the main goal is to qualify as a high seed for the tournament.
“The North [Division] is always so competitive, if you can get into that 1 or 2 spot and not have to play four games in a row, you’ve really upped your chances.”
As Ginn sees it, few teams on the Cardinals’ schedule will be able to withstand the Cardinals’ superior condition after halftime.
“Right now, we’re as fast a team as we’ve been around here,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re playing extremely well right now, but we are playing extremely hard, and that’s what’s keeping us in games. With the depth and leadership we’ve got, if these guys will do what we preach, we’ll be okay.”