Boys basketball looking to make a statement


Braydyn Lents, Sports Writer

Now is the time! The sun has set on the Trayce Jackson-Davis and Romeo Langford era of domination, and it seems as if this will be the year that Coach J.R. Holmes and the Panthers finally make it out of the regional for the first time since 2011. There is definitely a great chance of that this year as South returns the trio of stars Anthony Leal, Noah Jager, and Connor Hickman.

South has been consistently good for the last decade, but this year possibly boasts more talent than even the 2009 squad that went undefeated. First off, South now has the #1 recruit in the state in Leal who is committed to Indiana (according to 24/7 Sports), along with Jager at the point who is committed to Army. Miami (OH) football commit James Bomba, sharpshooter Joey Bomba, and Hickman will all be players to watch as well.. According to Assistant Coach, Kyle Simpson, as much as the press will chat about Anthony throughout his time at South, the big thing is to focus on the cards already put on the table, and performing the best throughout every stage starting from the tip.“When you have players that are the caliber of Romeo Langford and Trayce Jackson-Davis, obviously you have to play at a high level,” Simpson said, “Obviously we go from the hunter to the hunted so to speak, so now we are trying to knock off the big dogs, and now they are trying to get us.”  

Decked in his usual Sunday dress, a purple zipped shirt, Panther decal, and Monday khakis, Head Coach J.R. Holmes, started off with a confident swagger about this Panthers team full of top players.“We’re going to go into most games where we have two or three, or four of the best players in the game…” said Holmes, “Now if those three or four players, play together in a consistent manner, determines how good we can be.” 

Coach Holmes expects this team to go places. He was confident in most categories, from the guards to the perimeter, the biggest thing though was his confidence in their strong work ethic, as Holmes explained, “They have dedicated themselves all the time, they play basketball in the spring, summer, fall, before school, after school, out of the season, in season.” J.R. switched gears from talking about the team’s work ethic, to discuss how the performance of most of his players is positively impacted by a number of guys who have more basketball experience outside of South.

 “We played young guys, we played two Sophomores last year, and three Juniors, and now they are going to be Seniors and Juniors, now they are a year older, a year stronger, a year more experienced in playing in big-time AAU games, and you can tell they are lifting weights a little bit,” Holmes said, “There are a lot of things that can make your team look good on paper, and we look good on paper.” 

Getting all knotted up in Regionals has been a huge struggle for South the last five years, though. From losing in a thriller against New Albany that went into overtime where the Bulldogs shot a horrifying amount of free throws to win, to facing, now Iowa contributor, Jack Nunge from Castle, and the list can go on, and on. As Simpson explains, the road to Columbus is a harder road depending on who they get picked to play against, but easier if the players especially the seniors are focused and mentally prepared.“We are at Columbus, a conference opponent, teams that are much improved, but our challenges are getting past Bloomington North and playing teams from the Jeffersonville area.” Simpson said, “Our biggest challenge overall is getting past the Sectionals, then getting ready for Regionals. Finally, for our Seniors, we have to tell them there is no next year and to give it your best effort.”   

Coach Holmes’s stance was similar as he too believes that this is their year, as long as the focus is there.“We have maybe the best teams in the state of Indiana, besides ourselves, has always been in the regional,” Holmes said, “Right now our regionals have been full of extremely high profiled athletes, high profiled teams, and we have been a tad bit short of beating the best teams,” Holmes said.  

While Holmes’ record for wins is in the rear view mirror, this season will still be significant as it marks 50 years at the helm for the Hall of Fame ball coach. Holmes has two more years to go before he beats Cloverdale’s former coach, Pat Rady; however, coaching 50 years is extremely impressive, regardless. “That’s over now, but people asked me hey coach when will break the record, how many games until you win the record, and I was asked that for four to five years, but I never mentioned it,” Holmes said,

 “My mentality is about getting the guys on the floor, go around, improving on our game and getting better day in and day out.”