For years, Ryan Smith knew he had to manage every second of Covenant Academy games. This season, he’s looking forward to sitting back and letting his Lions run.
Covenant brings back the majority of its roster from last year, including a group of underclassmen who have been building chemistry together for years.
“We don’t have any seniors, but we have experienced guys who have been playing together since freshman year,” said Smith, who has been coaching at Covenant since 2008. “They have a better idea of what we’re trying to get done. I’m excited – these guys have played enough together where we should have some success this year.”
Despite an 0-2 start (Covenant lost on the road at Madison Academy and Boyd last week), Smith is keeping his optimistic outlook. If anything, he’s trying to take a hands-off approach to avoid miscues.
“In our first game, I did some things that probably lost us that game. They are to the point now where they know where to go and where to be. I don’t have to call timeouts anytime a team goes on a 6-0 run,” said Smith.
Here’s some things to watch as Covenant gets started on the hardwood:
Lots of guards
With no size to speak of in the middle, Smith has embraced playing with pace with his speedy team. The strategy may have been born out of a lack of height, but Smith is fine with rolling out a bevy of ball handlers to pressure opponents.
“We’re not going to have the height advantage against anybody, but last year we had a lot of people handle the ball, so it’s paid off this year,” said Smith.
Terry Hines is the engine driving the Lions, with his playmaking fueling the attack. Hines is a slashing scorer, but his willingness to make the extra pass keeps Covenant’s offense unpredictable.
David Netherton, Ethan Hillis, Daniel Young and Elijah Smith all add a scoring punch on the wing.
While Smith generally has a calm demeanor on the sideline, his voice can carry through a gym when he wants to make his point known. It may have been needed in past years with a young team, but he’s finding comfort in being more stoic.
“I can sit back and game manage and make adjustments with this group. They just need me to put them in positions to succeed,” said Smith.
Hines, Netherton, Hillis, Young and Smith are joined by Ian Lyles, Smit Patel, Vansh Patel and DJ Moore (though he suffered what may be a serious wrist injury in Thursday’s loss at Boyd). It’s a group of friends who make coaching fun.
“They’re great kids – we always have great kids. They play hard. They keep me doing this,” said Smith.