Originally Published: November 29, 2017 6:01 a.m.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Click to view the 2017-18 Prescott boys' basketball team season preview capsule.
Focused on team chemistry and the overall comradery of the group during training camp, longtime head coach Adam Neely believes his Prescott boys’ basketball team is ready for a successful season.
Entering his ninth year pacing the sidelines for the Badgers, Neely’s main goal is to build a tight-knit group unwilling to break.
“Our starting point has been our team comradery. It has to start there. We have to be together at all times,” Neely said. “We’re competitive, we get after each other, but at the same time, we know to put a smile on our face. They know they are brothers out here.”
Seven seniors return from a club that finished just 13-14 overall last season and were tied for last (4-8) in the Grand Canyon region.
But that was a year ago, Neely said, and with additional help up front, another strength the Badgers possess this season is their size and length.
“I feel like our length and our ability to rebound is going to be huge,” Neely said. “We have to limit teams to one attempt on the defensive end, crash the glass and limit the second-chance points.”
Senior Kody Jones quickly agreed.
“Last year where I thought we lacked a bit was rebounding. We’d give teams two extra shots if they missed it,” Jones said. “This year we’ve got guys whose main jobs is to be in there to rebound.”
Aaron Greene, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, along with Korey Schwartz and Harris Temple, will likely give Neely and the Badgers all the size they’ll need this season.
Jones, who lost 60 pounds in the offseason in effort to prepare for his senior campaign on the court, said he feels “amazing.”
“I was playing a lot of minutes [last year]. I was in the game for the entire time, but now, I want to be able to effect the game for the entire time,” Jones said.
Neely believes Jones will standout immediately amongst his peers.
“He went out of his way to get himself in shape. Committed himself to the weight room. Committed himself to his diet. And it’s going to show,” Neely said. “I think he’s going to have a great season, and he’s leading us right now.”
Other top returners this season include Cameron Parsons, Ryan Greene, Braden Lopez and Dallin Jex. Prescott lost seniors Paxton Henry, Walter Riggs and Andrew Victory to graduation, and junior Jackson Tillapaugh transferred to 3A conference Wickenburg.
Jex believes the chemistry between the eight seniors, many of whom have played together for more than four years, is solid.
The 6-foot-2 senior added the Badgers can compete for a Grand Canyon region title this season, but an old rival will likely stand in their way.
“Personally, I believe Flagstaff has caused us a lot of trouble in the past, so hopefully we can take that step over them,” Jex said.
The Eagles finished last year 22-5 and claimed the region title with a perfect 12-0 record before losing in the first round 88-84 to Buckeye Union back in February, but graduated 11 seniors and may take a step back in 2017-18.
In the eight seasons prior to Neely taking over as head coach of the program in 2009, the Badgers made the playoffs just once, a 76-66 loss to Saguaro in 2001.
From 2004-2009, Prescott went just 39-90, missing “February Frenzy” all five years.
After he was hired, Neely’s first three seasons were rough, finishing just 25-54 while quietly building a strong foundation.
However, in the 2012-13 campaign, his fourth, Prescott broke through. The Badgers won 18 games and made the state playoffs, eventually losing 80-63 to Poston Butte in the first round.
It was the first state playoff appearance for the Badgers in over a decade.
Since then, Prescott has qualified for the tournament twice, and won 47 percent of their games, a far cry from the 30 percent clip from 2001-2009.
Neely is 90-128 overall as head coach of the Badgers, but a much-improved 65-74 in the last five seasons.
Prescott (0-0, 0-0 Grand Canyon) opens the 2017-18 campaign by hosting Apache Junction tonight. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is sports editor for The Daily Courier, the Prescott Valley Tribune and the Chino Valley Review. Follow him on Twitter at @SportsWriter52 or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.