Five questions heading into the season:
How will the team adapt to new head coach, Brent Wren?
Wren says the team has taken well to his coaching tactics. He is making some changes to the way the Eagles play on offense and defense, and it will remain to be seen if these changes will benefit the team in the long run.
Will Isaiah Miller make the next step?
Miller led the Eagles in scoring last season, but struggled at times as a sophomore. Wren believes Miller should be able to do whatever he wants on the court and plans to put him in position to do so.
Will Keondre Perry and Ratayvious Jackson become big time contributors?
Perry was Eastside’s leading scorer until he missed the rest of the season due to academic ineligibility and Miller became the primary scorer. But now, Perry is back and should be a good one-two punch with Miller. Jackson is long and he can shoot, he plays a little too soft at times, but he has the skills to play at a high level and with his height and skillset can create mismatches on offense.
Is this a playoff team?
In a word, yes. They have the talent and experience to be a playoff team if they can put it together.
Can the Eagles be consistent?
As Wren notes in the article, the Eagles were in a lot of close games until they fell flat, and that led to them missing the playoffs. Consistency will be their biggest key and they should be able to keep it consistent this season if healthy.
Potential starting five: Joshua Wilson, Isaiah Miller, Keondre Perry, Raytavious Jackson and Joshua Cammon.
Offensive style of play: Fast. Spread the floor with a balanced scoring attack.
Defensive style of play: Man-to-man. Wren says, “We call it ‘our brother’s keeper.’ You always gotta keep an eye on the ball and also you gotta be in position to help your brother when they need it.”
Notable games scheduled: Season opener Nov. 17 at Newton. Region play begins Dec. 1 at Riverdale. Pivotal cross-region game at Griffin Dec. 8. Region game vs. Eagle’s Landing Jan. 26. Region game vs. Henry County Feb. 2.
Predictions: Eagles finish 19-10 (13-5 Region 4-AAAA). No. 3 seed in region.
Coming off a slightly disappointing season that saw Eastside boys’ basketball just miss out on the playoffs finishing with a record of 15-11 (9-7 Region 4-AAAA) the Eagles will begin the season under a new head coach in Brent Wren, who is taking over for Gregory Freeman after Freeman took over the head coaching job at Lovejoy.
Wren seems like a breath-of-fresh-air for the Eagles. His style and demeanor is completely opposite of the tough-as-nails Freeman. Wren is more open and seems to want to teach his players about life and basketball while having some fun in the meantime.
“I think they’re really enjoying it,” Wren said of his team adjusting to his coaching style.
“I want them to play the game of basketball the way it’s intended. React to what’s going on out there. I shouldn’t have to be barking out calls and different things and so forth. The kids, when they come back, they should be able to tell me exactly what they’re seeing out there and being able to relay to them I kind of want them to be a part of the basketball process,” Wren said. “Meaning, they understand what we want to do as a team, they go out and execute it, but when they see something out there that they can do I want them to be able to voice it, be able to express it then go outside and be able to do it.”
“I think that’s one of the things they’re liking about what’s going on. We talk about basketball. We have our sets, we have our philosophy….but it’s more so I give them the opportunity to be able to voice how they fit in what it is we’re trying to accomplish. I think they like it and we’re getting more buy-in from it.”
Wren says the transition has been pretty good so far. He thinks his players have a really good basketball foundation and adds that they’ve made coaching easier.
As far as practices go, Wren’s main focus has been getting his team to run without knowing they’re running by bypassing the conditioning aspect of running just to run and incorporating more running within the drills that the Eagles do. Eastside has little downtime, and they’re in constant movement, but Wren says it’s helped maximize conditioning while also developing basketball IQ/skills.
Offensively, Wren wants to run and avoid having a robotic offense allowing his players to do what they do best at their respective positions and on defense he wants to play man-to-man because it prepares his players for what they’ll likely do in college.
“Being able to understand where they’re supposed to be in relationship to the ball when their man has the ball or doesn’t have the basketball is very important. I think that says more about your program than anything else when you can look out there and see kids where they’re supposed to be when their man doesn’t have the ball,” Wren said.
“If you’re playing very good man-to-man it looks almost like a zone if you’re doing it the right way, and everybody’s in a help position. If you’re doing it the right way you’re not giving up layups and that’s the key. Those are the key points we look at and those are the things we try to teach the kids in film and different things just recognizing where you’re supposed to be and then being there, and at some point knowing that’s where you’re supposed to be.”
Junior point guard Isaiah Miller was the Eagles’ leading scorer last year as a sophomore, and as someone who is drawing interest from D-I schools, Miller should be much better this year. Wren wants Miller to use his athleticism to help the team in terms of structure and balance, especially on defense. He also wants Miller to be able to play off the ball more and not be a ball-dominant point guard so that when Miller goes cold the offense doesn’t get stagnant.
“He should be able to do anything he wants on the basketball court. He should be able to control tempo on both sides of the basketball and not necessarily just on the offensive side, but at the same time he’s gotta recognize that as a point guard and as a leader of the team there are other individuals that have to be involved,” Wren said. “We primarily want balance and I think with the skillset of these kids that are here, I don’t anticipate 30-point games or anything like that. I think it’s gonna be a balance where we have four or five players in double digits.”
The Eagles have a lot of height as most of their players are 6-foot or taller. Miller stands at 6-foot and other players like Jesse Walden is 6-foot-8, Raytayvious Jackson is about 6-foot-6, Keondre Perry is 6-foot-4 and Joshua Cammon is 6-foot-3.
The roster isn’t complete just yet, as the Eagles will get some help from athletes that are currently playing football, but as of now the roster stands at 10 players with six juniors and four seniors.
Wren’s goal for the team is to play to their basketball potential. After watching film this summer of Eagle basketball last season, Wren says he saw a team that would be up or down by two or four points and then they’d go flat.
“At some point they stopped playing to their potential and that’s one of the things we want to focus on,” Wren said.
“If our potential is to get to the region and get all the way through then that’s what we do. If it’s meant for us to get to the playoffs, that’s what we do. I want them to maximize their potential because I don’t wanna go in and set a goal because once you reach that goal you plateau,” he added. “So the expectation is every game you go in with that expectation to win, and the end goal is the only time you’re the champion at the top or you’re finished is when you’ve won every single game. So the goal is to win every single game, provided we play basketball to our potential, and that’s the key.”
The Eagles start their season against county-rival, Newton, on the road November 17.