Nov. 16—It has been a decade since the Spartans have made any waves on the hardwood. A handful of "good" years are present, where the records looked decent. Their play on the court The majority, however, were one or two win seasons. Union has taken a fall from grace from the success in eras past. Their most recent winning season came in 2012, where they took second in their conference at 11-3 and overall carried a 16-11 record.
Jermaine McNeil, second year coach of the Spartans, is looking to return Union back to their former glory as the basketball standouts of Sampson County. It has been tough sledding for the small school as they have repeatedly been on the wrong end of some bad years. Last season, Union was marred by blowouts with their first six losses coming in heavy handed. Out of all those games, they hadn't broke 50 points. In fact, they had only done it twice last year.
The boys in red and black were seen scrimmaging against each other with McNeil looking on. There is a new atmosphere on the Spartan Court. There was focus in their eyes while they played with intensity against one another. There was some inner team issues that plagued the Spartans on the hardwood. This could be seen on the court with some of players showing poor attitudes which hindered their play overall. With this new group, they are seeing it differently.
When asked about what had changed, McNeil responded.
"Last season, we had ups and downs. This year, this kids are working hard and showing something different. Their attitudes have changed a lot and they really want it. We gotta stick together, I always tell them no matter what, we are ALL brothers here. Nothing else matters, we are brothers."
The Spartans have lost experience with their recent graduating class and will have plenty of gaps to fill. With that being said, Union have the players to field a JV and Varsity team. This will require an overhaul in training as McNeil will have to focus on bringing all the new players up to snuff for play on the hardwood.
"I'm really trying to teach them the basics of the game. I have a couple of kids who have never played before, but they play hard and they are picking it up quick."
McNeil broke away for a spell after the scrimmage wrapped up. The JV squad was sent home after their training session and he set up the varsity team for a free throw competition as he focuses on his players capitalizing on opportunities a problem. With any miss, as a team, they would sprint the court. No brow was left dry but they didn't slow down.
This went on for about 10 minutes as the Spartans pushed themselves hard in hopes of a season to proud of. They huddled after the practice and McNeil gave a brief pep talk and sent the team home for the evening to rest up, for tomorrow they would be right back out on the hardwood.
"It's a process but we're working to the top, slowly but surely. I'm very excited about this season."
Reach Anthony McConnaughey at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SportsSampson