By TREY WILLIAMS
Second-year David Crockett girls basketball coach Tony Gordon is having such a good time these days that the former boys head coach didn’t blink when Crockett boys coach John Good resigned to go to Unicoi County this spring.
Gordon was an assistant under Good prior to last season. He’s been the boys head coach at University High, Morristown West and Elizabethton.
“I’ve got an unbelievable group of kids,” Gordon said. “They’ve just bought in a hundred percent. They’ve been fun to coach – so fun that I was not gonna leave them for the boys job.”
Gordon’s Pioneers returned to Furman University last week for a team camp. What a difference a year makes.
“The coaches at Furman couldn’t believe we were the same team,” Gordon said, “just from where we were last year to where we are this year. … They were ready to go to camp so they didn’t have to go against each other, because our practices are – they’re battles. There’s some kids that just don’t like to lose, and they’ll sacrifice whatever they need to sacrifice to win.”
The Pioneers return every player other than softball ace Kara Weems, including leading scorer Emma Gouge and leading rebounder Mackenzie Baldwin.
“Since we got back and had our spring practice, which was the last week of school, it’s night and day from where we’ve been,” Gordon said. “I can’t believe how far they’ve come, but I can, because I know how much work they’ve put into it and how much they want it. I’m not surprised, but as far as evaluating what we’re doing and where we’re at, I couldn’t be more pleased. …
“What sets them apart is how hard they compete. Defensively, they’ve gotten a lot better. They take pride in it. They share the ball. They have confidence and they’re really getting comfortable with our system of play.”
Two Crockett players were injured at Furman. Madison Orr suffered an apparent meniscus injury and Carlie Wilson injured a shoulder. Wilson is expected back within a week or two, but Orr won’t likely return before fall.
“Orr didn’t play a lot last year, but she is, far and above, our most improved player,” Gordon said. “She made a decision on her own to dedicate herself to basketball and she’s in the gym almost daily. She got on a travel team and she has blossomed. She’s gonna help us this year because she can shoot, she’s athletic, she’s got some length. And now she’s got some confidence on top of it. I think she’ll recover from this fairly well, but it hurts to see her go down because I know how much she’s put into it. …
“Carlie Wilson’s improved tremendously. She rebounds well, she creates space and she knows her limitations.”
Nora Walters, a rising sophomore, could be a productive addition to the roster next season.
“She’s had an outstanding offseason playing travel ball and all that,” Gordon said. “She’s always in the gym, and she gives us some length and athleticism. She’s not used to the speed of the varsity game yet, but she’ll adjust. She’s gonna be a huge asset, because she can play multiple positions. She’s basically the tallest one we’ll have (approximately 5-foot-10).”
At least a couple of freshmen could contribute right away at the varsity level.
“I think we’re gonna have a decent class coming in, but not as deep,” Gordon said. “There’s a couple I have my eye on, obviously.”
The Pioneers will also have guard Carolina Palomino next season. A good defender, Palomino sustained a season-ending injury this past season.
Crockett will also attend camps at Oak Ridge and UNC Asheville.