Eastside entered the new year on a four-game winning streak after losing four straight games, but head coach Gregory Freeman still has reservations about his team’s current level of play.
The Eagles hosted a Holiday Invitational December 29-30, where they went 2-0 against Southwest Christian Academy and Thomson. The Eagles won both games by a total of six points, but the team was inconsistent. They looked like a team that lacks an offensive identity.
While they did manage to put up 78 points against SACA and 61 against Thomson, it just seemed like the team could do more.
“We’re winning right now in spite of ourselves,” Freeman said. “We’re getting great hustle plays from Ratayvious Jackson, he’s really stepped it up. [Tuesday], down the stretch we did some things that weren’t smart, but as long as you defend you give yourself a chance and right now we’re doing a much better job of playing defense. I’m happy with our defense and where it’s headed in terms of getting ready for the region, but I want us to make better decisions on offense. [We] have to, in order to win.”
The team’s defense is its calling card. The Eagles have the ability to play each team differently throughout the game on defense. They can run traps in full-court or half-court, or they can run different zones and use their athleticism and length to create havoc for the opposition.
On offense, Freeman wants his team to play like the San Antonio Spurs, with excellent ball movement resulting in taking good shots. At times they do that and it looks like beautiful basketball. There are other times where they don’t make the extra pass or make the pass quick enough and the offense becomes stagnant relying on one individual player to create for the team.
Marquise Sims is probably the team’s best shooter and when he runs the floor or comes off a screen and the team finds him, it’s likely going to result in a made three. Sims helps space the floor and when he’s got it going the Eagles’ offense is at its best. When Timothy Haynes is slashing to the basket, with his big upper body, knocking down east layups or the lanky Jackson is knocking down mid-range shots and J.J. Saxton is hitting the boards, turning offensive rebounds into three-point plays, then the Eagles’ offense as a whole runs like well-oiled machine. When they’re not doing that, they struggle to score.
“When we execute our plays, our offense is good and we can set our defense,” Freeman said. “It’s when we go individually that we have issues. Right now we’re doing more of that. I don’t know why we slowed down in the second half. We literally slowed down.”
“My players are trying to coach and play right now instead of doing the things that I’m asking them to do and playing basketball smart and concise,” Freeman added.
Freeman says that he has a young team and they’re impressionable. Eastside’s starting point guard, Isaiah Miller, is a talented sophomore, but he’s young with minimal experience. Still, it starts with Miller because he can get it going at anytime, but he has to get the players around him involved first.
“It’s a learning curve for him. It’s a learning process. But I have to coach him through mistakes, he’s making plenty of them and he has to learn. That’s part of learning,” Freeman said.
He’s only going to get better, which is great for Freeman because the kid is a stud. Right now, however, he’s learning on the fly and there are ups and downs.
The region schedule is about to get heavy beginning with the Eagles’ Tuesday matchup at Locust Grove and if the Eagles can continue to play strong defense and move the ball on offense consistently then they’ll be an unwanted problem in the region.