As second year coach Mark Folsom transforms his team into a run-and-gun outfit, two youngsters figure to be factors this winter. Junior point guard Mitchell Jones and sophomore small forward Tony Miller have worked hard this off-season with a focus toward the future.
“Mitchell is a feisty, get-after-it-in-your-face defensive guy,” Folsom said recently. “He’s probably the best that I’ve seen in this conference as far as on-ball defense. And you can throw Tony Miller in there, who has gotten bigger and stronger. He played for us last year as a freshman. He’s starting to establish a name for himself.”
Heading into summer, Folsom’s goal was to provide as many opportunities for his players as possible. He has opened the gym on a daily basis and had the team playing in various games and tournaments throughout the region. The players seem to be responding.
“I really like how he came in and turned us into a year round program,” Miller said. “He’s very tough but he’s also a very funny guy.”
“He’s really intense and you can tell he really cares about the team,” Jones said. “He also really likes the defensive part of the game. That’s something he really focuses on in practice. Making sure that teams will have a tough time scoring on us.
“We’ve definitely gotten better with 7-8 guys in the summer playing together every day,” Jones added. “I really like the new up tempo style. We’ll push the ball, and sometimes coach says to take shots after 5-8 seconds (into a possession) because he knows that we will have guys on the court and even if we miss we’ll crash the boards because the defense won’t be ready to rebound that fast.”
As for areas of improvement, both players were asked what they’re working on.
“Right now it’s mostly my ball handling and pull up jumper,” Miller said. “And leadership. I mostly enjoy shooting, but if a guy’s up close on me, I’m going to have to drive. I like driving. I can also work down in the post.”
As for Jones, he knows full well the priority of a point guard.
“My ball handling is already pretty good,” Jones said. “But I’ve been working on it too just to make sure that it’s really good by the time the season starts. I don’t want to have any turnovers during games.
“I’m trying to work on my shot a little bit, especially the 15-footers and mid-range pull ups. So when I drive into the paint maybe I can pull up a shot instead of passing it every time.”
Both players cited Inglemoor as the game they’ve got circled on the calendar — but for different reasons.
“I’m really excited to play them,” Jones said. “Last year they were the ones that knocked us out of the KingCo (tourney). We got killed by 25. We had a game against them this summer and we only lost by 3. So I really want another shot at them. We could give them a run for their money.”
Miller’s motivation, on the other hand, was much more personal. “My brother Trey is on their team,” he said.