The 10th-year Morgan City coach is bringing back concepts, that had been shelved for the last three or so years, as he enters the 2012-13 season.
“I got away from things because we had a player like a Shawn Long (now playing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette) and three or four other offensive threats where we could get in the half court set … (and) we could do anything we wanted to, and we didn’t have to push it down your throw,” Whittington said. “We could just come down and beat you slowly or we could push … but our commitment has gone back to our running style where we get up and down the floor and we’re trying to score 70-plus a game.”
The defense also is changing, too, as Whittington’s team will play more man-to-man this season, while also getting in a half-court zone at times.
“We’re going to play some full court man and get after people … We’ve got the athleticism and speed (to do it),” he said. “I told our kids, ‘we want to pressure you defensively and offensively. We want to constantly keep pressure on the other team to have to guard us.”
While the Tigers lost two seniors (Jalen Johnson and Derrick Walker) from last year’s 16-14 squad that Whittington said “overachieved,” he returns nearly everyone else and also welcomes senior Demarcus Coleman, who will provide the Tigers another inside presence at power forward.
Along with Coleman, other big bodies the Tigers have are senior Brannon Randle (Long’s cousin), junior Malcolm Watkins and sophomore Brady Fryou.
Whittington was especially complimentary of Fryou, who he expects to contribute this year.
“That kid’s come (along) longer in one year than any player I’ve ever coached,” Whittington said. “He’s made that much difference.”
The Tigers also have a group of shooters led by the team’s second-leading scorer last year, Tyrin Watts, as well as sophomore Jaylen Jones, senior Taylor Brocato, junior Buddy Humphrey and freshman Marquis Green, who Whittington called a “pretty sound little player.”
Watts, who has topped the scoring column for Morgan City in each of its first three games this year, actually led the team in scoring a year ago until Johnson became healthy following a football injury.
“He’s going to be a really good player for us this year,” Whittington said of Watts, who after three games this season, is averaging 20.6 points per contest.
Jones is second on the team at 7.7 points a game.
While Morgan City won its first two games of the season against West St. Mary and Terrebonne in the opening rounds of Morgan City’s Tiger Classic, the squad fell to South Lafourche in the championship game in its most recent contest, Wednesday.
Prior to the season, Whittington was faced with the same scenario that many other coaches have as his football players joined in preseason practice late as football season wrapped up at the beginning of November.
Without the football players, though, Whittington has had time to work with other team members.
The time has given him the opportunity to form one group, and after the football players arrived, a second group, that he can swap during games.
He said he would consider “wholesale” substituting or some variation of his groups during games to get the most out of his players and keep the intensity constant for the Tigers on offense and defense.
There’s also Green and fellow freshman Lloyd Singleton, who Whittington expects to both get playing time this year, as well as senior Etoyi Jones, who is recovering from a football injury and Whittington said is not expected to be available until around the first of the year.
In 2011, Whittington said his squad had to “steal some wins, and it wasn’t pretty a lot of times. There were games when we scored in the 20s to win or 30s.”
The season ended with Morgan City falling 60-15 to No. 2 seed St. Augustine, last year’s Class 4A runner-up, in the first round of the playoffs.
Whittington said the game was the most lopsided loss he’s ever had as a coach.
“Is it a driving factor for me?” Whittington asked rhetorically of the loss. “Hell yeah. I’ve worked my butt off to get these guys where they are, and I plan on us not being a 16-14 team this year.”
The Morgan City coach said this year’s squad has the ability to win more than 20 games, something last year’s team could have done with a few more points as the squad lost five games by three points or less while starting only two guys with prior year varsity minutes.
As for this year’s district season, Whittington said he would be upset if his squad did not vie for a championship.
While he expects Vanderbilt Catholic to be up there among the district’s best, he had good things to say about South Terrebonne, Assumption and Ellender, too.
“Our district’s going to be very competitive this year,” he said.
Morgan City will return to action Nov. 29 when it opens play in the Centerville Tournament.