Cougars leap into action Thursday

Published 5:42 pm Monday, November 14, 2005

By By Matthew Nascone
New Escambia Academy varsity boy's basketball coach Kevin Woods wants to keep the rich basketball tradition at EA alive and well.
"We went to the Elite Eight last year and won the state title two years ago," Woods said. "A lot of people think this is going to be a rebuilding year, but I am looking forward to us doing well."
For the Cougars to do well the team will need strong play from all eight players on the team. EA lost five seniors last year and returns only two starters. Another hurdle to overcome is only having a few practices to get into basketball shape.
"Fortunately for the football team they made the playoffs, but that meant I didn't get all the players until Monday," Woods said.
Woods said that all his guys get along great on and off the court.
"Chemistry seems to always be good because they all play together and spend a lot of time together during three hour practices every day and see each other in class the whole year," Woods said.
However, Woods said having only seven or eight practices before the first game might pose a problem for the team as they open the season with a tough schedule. The Cougars open with Monroe Academy, Faith Academy and Cottage Hill Academy, all AISA 3A schools.
As if not having enough time to get ready for basketball season wasn't enough, two of the boys are in casts from football injuries. Woods said Matt Ash gets his cast taken off next week, but Bruce Smith will be out four to six weeks with a broken hand.
"Smith got hurt during football season, but he has been out here practicing," Woods said. "He got hit with a ball the other day and got the hand x-rayed and figured out he has a couple cracked bones in his right hand."
Woods said the injury to Smith's shooting hand would keep him out longer than if it was his left hand. Woods added that when Smith does come back he would be limited in how he can help the team.
With the injury to Smith the Cougars will open the season with only one returning starter in Cody Norton and their sixth man from last year, Jeffrey Taylor. Woods said Taylor played a lot last year and should be a big part of the team again this year.
Even with the injuries to the team and the shortened practice time, Woods said he believes this will be a good year in Cougar country.
"I feel certain we will be competitive this year in our region," he said. "I look for us to win our region and make it to state. Our success will depend on injuries since we only have eight players. We are going to have to avoid the injury bug and play smart basketball."
The main goal for the Cougars has always been to win state, but Woods understands with the loss of five seniors that might not happen this year. But he said a little hard work could go a long way.
"Our first goal is to win the region, our second goal is to get to state and obviously the last goal is to win state," Woods said. "Right now I feel if we win the region and get to state it would be a great accomplishment. Once you get to the state playoffs anything can happen."
Woods said the assumptions of the other teams in the area could lead to success for EA.
"We could get hot and sneak up on some people," he said. "I think everyone is looking at EA as a rebuilding year because we lost five seniors last year. It is kind of a rebuilding year, but we do have some playing experience on the team and I am proud of their efforts."
Woods said he is proud of how hard his players work to get better. He added that they never give up and they all play as hard as they possibly can every time they lace up their sneakers to represent their school.
The Cougars tip off their season Nov. 17 against the Monroe Academy Volunteers in Monroeville.

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