The Ellison Eagles are 3-1 this season. Eagles six-year head coach Alberto Jones Jr. talked with Herald sports editor Allan Mandell after Wednesday’s practice.
Coach, your team is dangerous, with a capital “D.” Would you agree?
I think we can be. I think if we use that capital “D” and take it to mean “defense,” I think we can be pretty dangerous. But we are a young team. I think the potential is there for our team to be pretty good but we need to keep working hard.
You certainly have some very tough big guys that enjoy cleaning the glass.
Yes. Our main two big guys with regard to rebounding are Shaqur Martin (6-3, Jr.) and Ronnie Edwards (6-4, Sr.). They’re not the tallest guys but those two guys really stick their noses in there; they scrap and get after it.
When Fred Jackson (6-7, Sr.) jumps, are you ever afraid he might hit his head on the ceiling?
(Laughing) I’ve never really thought about that, but if he hits his head on the ceiling a few times, I won’t be too upset with that. He’s definitely got some springs.
That dunk Fred made Tuesday night seemed to really invigorate the crowd and your kids.
We like those exciting dunks. We’re all for those. Fred usually gets one a game, and then he gets pumped up.
And then, like you said, that gets our crowd pumped up and our team gets pumped up, too.
And it’s a pretty high percentage shot, eh?
(Smiling) Very high percentage shot — very high percentage shot.
Tuesday night, you had Antonio Martin (6-1, Jr.) coming off your bench, scoring 15 points and leading your team. You kept him in there almost the entire second half, showing a lot of faith in him.
Yes. Tony is a good player. And we’ve got a lot of guys that are close in talent. So, right now, the guys that are playing well will play and stay on the court. I have no problem leaving in guys at the end of the game that came off the bench. Whether you’re a starter or not, if you’re playing well you’ll be staying in the game. Tony did a heck of a job for us on Tuesday night.
Coach, one thing we talked about Tuesday was how deep your team is. When your players know you’re comfortable playing 10 guys, that can serve as a big motivator, true?
Yes. And a good example of that is with Fred. If Fred isn’t playing well then we can put in Isiah Jasey (6-8, frosh) who can come in there and do exactly what Fred likes to do. And that keeps Fred on his toes. And then there’s Malik Malone (6-5, Jr.), our leading scorer. He’s our guy, but he sat a lot in the second half on Tuesday because he wasn’t playing as well as we thought he could play. So he sat, and guys like Tony and Marcus Jackson (5-11, Sr.) and Shannon Bogues (6-0, Jr.) came in and did a tremendous job for us.
But Malik Malone has a lot of strengths, correct?
Oh, yes. He’s got the total package. When he’s on, he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached.
And it all seems to run together through Knigel Key (5-8, Sr.). He seems like a coach on the floor.
That’s what we want Knigel to be and that’s what he needs to be, because he’s our point guard. And he knows what it takes to be successful. He’s doing a tremendous job for us.
What is the potential of your 6-foot-8 “diaper dandy” Isiah Jasey?
He’s got tremendous potential. This kid will be big time. This kid will be one of those guys that we’re watching on TV when he plays college. And I think there’s a good chance that we’ll be watching him in the NBA. He’s got all the potential in the world. He’s not only big, he’s one of our best athletes. When we run in practice, he’s always one of the first finishers. He’s got a great attitude, he wants to learn, wants to get better. He’s one of those kids that you get maybe once in a coaching career—if you’re lucky.
Coach, you said you’ve got some guys that work pretty doggone hard in practice that deserve mention, too.
Yes. We’ve got Mike Davis (6-2, Jr.) who hasn’t played a lot but he’s probably the happiest guy on the team when our team plays well. He’s one of our most motivated guys. He’s the first guy off the bench to give a guy a well-deserved high-five.
And Marcus Jackson plays so hard for us. And Derique Ryan (5-11) is another of our “diaper dandys.” He hasn’t played a lot yet. He’s a freshman guard and him and Isiah will be a real good one-two punch for us in the future.
And a guy that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention but is probably one of the key guys on our team is Isaiah Stevenson (6-0) — he’s a sophomore guard who leads us in rebounding. He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever coached.
Shannon Bogues, our backup point guard, keeps Knigel going. Shannon is one of the best one-on-one players that we have.
I like our guys. I think we need to get a little tougher mentally and I think that will come with a little more game-time experience.
Coach, what are your expectations of this basketball team?
Right now, because it’s early, our goal is just to get as good as we possibly can. Sometimes kids say, “I want to win district,” “I want to win state.” I think, right now, it’s important for this team to just become as good as we can possibly get—and then we’ll see how the chips fall. If we stick together, play as a team and keep working hard, at the end of the year I think we’ll be pretty satisfied with our season.