Posted: 9:53 am Tuesday, December 9th, 2008
By Jason Lieser
Glades Central football coach Jessie Hester, always in a jovial mood, joked that basketball coach Edwin “Markee” James was the only person at the school happy to see the Raiders’ early exit from the football playoffs.
Let’s be dead clear: Hester was completely kidding. Make no mistake about that. One of the best things about Glades Central is the way the different coaches and programs support each other out there.
Of course, James is as big a football fan as anyone and certainly did not relish in Hester’s defeat. That being said, eight of those football players are on James’ roster and it was a nice bonus to get that talent transfusion earlier than expected.
In a wide-ranging conversation, James discussed the team’s revival last season and its lofty expectations for this year. In his year-plus on the bench, the Raiders are 23-8 and off to a 5-0 start this season.
This team won five games the year before you arrived. What was wrong with the program when you took charge?
EJ: “From what I gathered, the players weren’t having fun. (The offense) was slowing the ball down and pass the ball around the perimeter. Kids just didn’t have basic fundamentals of the game. They couldn’t play man-to-man defense. They didn’t know when to shoot. They didn’t know how to make moves to the basket or pivot in the post.”
Did that make you second-guess your decision?
EJ:“That summer I took the job, I saw some of the guys play over in the gym, and I said to myself, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ I didn’t see the type of basketball that I had been used to seeing. I didn’t even plan a tip-off because I didn’t think we were ready. I just wanted that period from as soon as practice started up until the first game to work. When I really saw this was going to be a special unit was the first game. Gardens was ranked No. 1 or 2 in the county last year, and they only beat us by six points, and that was without any of our football players. I knew it was going to be something special.”
Why was that deliberate, methodical style of offense a bad fit?
EJ:“We were there running sprints one day, and the overall speed overwhelmed me. I thought, ‘we’ve got to change this up.’ We need to get up and down the floor. The kids began to have fun with that, and once they got into the groove of what I expected, we just had fun the rest of the year.”
Your current offense looks a little less, uh, organized. At times it looks like a playground game, but is there more to it than we might realize?
EJ:“We run several different sets throughout my offense, but I’m not going to tell a kid he has to pass the ball five times before he takes a shot. If on the first pass you have a shot, take it. It’s structured, but I don’t want to hamper anybody.”
You had zero head-coaching experience when you got the job. Where did you learn to coach?
EJ:“I would say at Ball State under coach Dick Hunsaker, who was my coach my junior year. He really changed my outlook on the game of basketball. Anybody could have talent, but if you don’t know what to do with it, it goes for naught.
“I was the type of player who thought I knew it all and didn’t have to condition. I became the type of player who wanted to work to get better every day. (Hunsaker) stayed on me and made me become a student of the game.”
Is this year’s team capable of reaching the state finals?
EJ:“I think it’s possible. Once we get that complete team and start to gel, that is possible. We have to exceed what we did the year before. This team can be a special team. I’ve got a lot of young guys coming back who played major minutes last year, and those guys are hungry.”
Clive Walford’s development seems integral to this team making that leap. How much better does he look this year?
EJ:“He’s grown, his game has matured. What happened a lot of times last year was he depended on Eddie Poole. Eddie Poole was Mr. Everything last year, and sometimes Clive would say, ‘Well, I didn’t do it because I knew Eddie was going to do it.’ This year there is no Eddie. Clive is the big man on the block.
“Last year, at times, he couldn’t walk and chew bubble gum. He couldn’t dribble the ball. If he got a rebound, I would want him to pick it right up and find the nearest guard to give it to. This year will be a lot different.”
What’s your scouting report on him for 2008-09?
EJ:“Honestly, I just don’t think too many people want to face him. Down low, I don’t think anybody in the county will be able to deal with him because of his strength and his ability to make moves on the block. On the perimeter, I don’t see many 3s guarding him.”
Do you have a true leader on this team?
EJ:“The person I think will lead this team is going to be (Antwan) Chilsom. That kid just has a fire about himself that I haven’t seen in a kid in a long time. He’s a hungry kid at whatever he does, and you don’t find that in too many kids these days.”