2012 NPT PHOTO BY SETH BUTLER First-year Cocke County Lady Red coach Jeremy Byrd (left) teaches sophomore Delessa Stewart and junior Kaitlyn Martin during practice on Thursday afternoon.
Friday, November 09, 2012
(Last modified: 2012-11-09 20:45:33)
 
Author: Caleb Chrisman
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

NEWPORT-The Jeremy Byrd era of Cocke County Lady Red basketball is about to officially begin.
Byrd enters his first season as a head coach at the high school level after several years coaching elementary ball.

He will have a plethora of young players to work with and Byrd is trying to place a focus and emphasis on the word 'team'.

While Allison Ball and Mika Wester return as leading scorers, and returning senior Alison Atha is the team's leading rebounder, Byrd made it clear that no one has been named a starter just yet.

"I'm trying to take the focus off of just the starting five," Byrd said. "We're in this as a team, and we're going to have a total team effort whether five play or ten play."

But no matter who starts for the Lady Red, there are some obvious strengths. Cocke County should be able to run a fast paced offense with plenty of quickness across the floor. Size could become an issue though.

"We've got some speed. That's a definite strength of ours," Byrd said. "Sometimes we play a little out of control, but that's to be expected as early as it is. They are in a new system and a new way of doing things. I also feel perimeter defense is going to be a strength for us."

"We're still feeling each other out. We try to keep it business out there on the floor. If they step out of line, I'm going to let them know about it. If they're slacking I'm going to let them know. When we're in this locker room, that's when we're going to open up and talk to each other. They're going to let me know some concerns. I want to be real open with them as far as most things go."

"I feel like their discipline thus far is great. I've not had any bad attitudes and my plans are to keep it that way. Our big focus when I first started was self discipline and so far they're buying in, but there's a long way to go and it's really early," Byrd said.

Byrd is trying to instill a four quarter mentality for his team. No matter what happens throughout the game, playing a complete four quarters will be crucial to this teams success.

"The main thing I'm trying to get through their heads now is basketball is a four quarter, 32 minute game," Byrd said. "The game's not decided in the first quarter when you get up 20 or down 10. The game is decided by continuously battling for 32 solid minutes, regardless of the score."

"When that final buzzer goes off, then we'll look up at that scoreboard and see if we won or we lost. That's one of my goals - play hard 32 minutes."

Youth will continue to be a factor for the second year in a row for the Lady Red. Some growing pains can certainly be expected at times when you combine that with a new system and coaching staff.

"We are young and I'm going to take that into consideration. We're probably going to struggle at times during the season," Byrd said. "I want to win more than we did last year and I honestly have a lot of faith in these girls and my coaching staff, and I think we can get that done."

Other than lack of size being a potential weakness, there are other areas where the Lady Red need to improve.

"We need to work on taking care of that basketball and not turning it over," Byrd said. "That goes along with making good decisions when you have the basketball and not forcing passes. We're going to be playing up-tempo, so that becomes even more important."

"Another weakness, my posts have got to step up. They've got to start working hard. There are going to be about four or five of them I'm rotating around in and out of there, and they're just going to have to play tough because we're going to be outsized. Am I worried? No. Not a bit, because I know
my posts are going to work hard."

Despite all of the newness and adjusting to the high school game, Byrd is ready for the season to begin. He is most excited to see how his team responds to adversity.

"I'm excited... I'm anxious," Byrd said. "I don't know what to expect. I'm thinking positive but what's going to happen to us if something negative happens? Are we going to crumble, or are we going to stand tall and keep fighting?"

"That's what I'm putting in their head. I'm really anxious to see if they're going to buy into that because that is what makes a team. That's what makes a very competitive team. Are you going to crumble and lay down when the circumstances get tough? Are you going to crawl in your shell, or are you going to step up, accept the challenge and go after it? I'm anxious to see that," Byrd said.

Cocke County opens at Hardin Valley on Tuesday in a Hall of Fame game. They host Greenville on Thursday.

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