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PREP BASKETBALL: Alcovy boys building for the 'long run'
Alcovy's A.J. Paschal had 18 points for the Tigers in their loss to Salem during the NewRock Showcase. - photo by Tom White

COVINGTON, Ga. -- Though their 2-5 start was not what they hoped for, Alcovy boys’ basketball still has all of its postseason aspirations ahead of them, as they have yet to play a region game this season.

This, combined with some noteworthy next-level experiences this year, such as visiting Georgia Tech in November and playing (and winning) at Phillips Arena against Marion County earlier in the month, positions the Tigers for a run this season, and beyond, as coach Mack Hardwick is striving to build a successful program.

After opening the year up with a win over cross-county rival Eastside, the Tigers hit a three-game skid before notching their second win against Marion County, in which senior point guard A. J. Paschal led the way with 26 points on the big stage at Phillips Arena. 

Hardwick called the trip to Phillips a “complete team bonding experience.”

Building a team bond is something Hardwick is striving to do. In his fourth year with at Alcovy, and third as head coach, Hardwick complimented his team’s growth from a discipline standpoint both on the court, and off.

 “The biggest change has been discipline to be honest,” Hardwick said. “On the court and off the court, discipline has been the key to the necessary changes that I’ve seen in our team. With that, so much positive growth has occurred.” 

Coach also gives due credit to his assistant coaches, Coach Beckford and Coach Alexander, who have “greatly assisted in that necessary change.” 

Change, though not always good, is something this program needs in light of its recent history.

Alcovy hasn’t enjoyed a winning season since the 2011-2012 campaign. But Hardwick is giving it his best to instill a culture of “positive growth” into Alcovy hoops. Some of that has come through those aforementioned unique experiences the team has already shared. 

“We’d first like to thank Georgia Tech basketball program along with Mario West for extending such a warming welcome along with advice on perseverance, keys to success and what it takes to make it to the next level,” he said. “I, along with my coaching staff, think it is very vital to expose youth to what they desire, which typically is to play on the next level. Consequently, exposure to colleges, college players and former NBA players are vital for maturation. [The team] greatly appreciated the experience at Georgia Tech as well as having the opportunity to play in the Philips Arena.” 

Opportunities like those often help spark a player’s drive after they are inspired by top-notch facilities and exposure. This inspiration, of course, helps the player as an individual, but experiencing it as a team helps that coveted bond grow even stronger as the boys can be inspired together.  

Speaking of growth, Paschal’s presence and improvement offensively has been key in the early But Hardwick also noted his growth as a leader, saying that his point guard has made “gains in his role as captain.” Him and sophomore talent Donald Kay have been key pieces for the Tigers this year, but Hardwick made sure to clarify the importance of playing together. 

 “The entire team this year comprises integral contributors to our team’s offensive and defensive schemes as a whole,” Hardwick said. “We need the efforts of each one of our young men if we are to be successful this season.” 

Striving for this success, Hardwick is “very optimistic” for the season. Although winning this year is at the forefront of his mind, he is making strides to make sure the Alcovy basketball program is building for the long run.