Hoops Preview

Working in new talent key for Triton hoops

By DONNELL COLEY
Sports editor
Posted 11/17/21

The Daily Record's "Hoops Preview" series breaks down the basketball teams at Triton ahead of the 2021-22 season opener.

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Hoops Preview

Working in new talent key for Triton hoops

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ERWIN — The Triton girls basketball team boasts just one senior coming into a brand new campaign, but four-year varsity member Tristan Ennis doesn’t see that as an impediment.

Ennis was an integral part of last year’s 10-3 Lady Hawks who won nine of their first 10 games and finished third in the former Tri-County 3A Conference.

Rehashing that success will largely depend on how fast a host of talented freshmen learn the high school game.

“I was a freshman coming on varsity, and it was a big switch from middle school ball,” Ennis said following practice last week.

“The biggest adjustment is the pace of the game. It’s a lot quicker and you got to think faster.”

Ennis used those traits to post a career season, averaging 8 1/2 points, just short of seven rebounds and 2 1/2 steals per game.

The scoring and rebounding totals were just shy of those produced by teammate Abby Hood, who returns as the Lady Hawks’ leader in all three categories and was a first-team All-Record performer.

Hood’s breakout sophomore season was a testament to an increased confidence level, something she feels her younger teammates can learn from as they attempt to make their own imprint.

“That was my problem for two years, I was in my own head,” said the sharpshooting junior.

“So, I just have to get them out of their own head and then they’ll be better.”

Lead guard JaNiah Smith and athletic wing Chyna Massey figure to be among the team’s key role players from the loaded freshman class.

First-year coach Richard Rozier sees Smith as a versatile offensive weapon and refers to Massey as a “defensive stopper.”

“We have a great group of leaders ... and we have a solid freshman class. We got a good mix,” he said.

“We have a group of winners, so that’s the attitude I like to see. It’s nice.”

Meanwhile, returning sophomores A’Shari Watlington and Aubrey Bass held starting roles with Hood and Ennis for most of the season and look to thrive in Rozier’s “space and pace” offense.

Following its first test of the season at next week’s Harnett County basketball tournament, the Lady Hawks will work towards a state playoff berth that alluded them last year.

That requires braving an ultra-competitive All American Conference, which Rozier feels his squad is more than capable of achieving.

“We definitely have the talent to compete, it’s just about bringing it every night in this new conference,” he said.

“We’re definitely gonna hold our own ... this group of girls can hang with the best of them.”

The Lady Hawks face Overhills on Monday, Nov. 22 for both teams’ opener.

Hawks looking to build on potential

Longtime Triton boys basketball coach T.J. Morrison, like most in his position during last year’s truncated schedule, didn’t get as much game action as he would have liked for a budding group.

Following a 4-5 overall record that featured a three-game win streak near the finish line, Morrison is hoping a new season yields more opportunities for growth. 

“We’re going to be relatively young, but it’s a good group of kids that we can teach and work with,” he said.

“And they’re working hard ... I think we’re ahead of the game.”

Morrison added that this particular version of the Hawks excels in being coachable, while also maintaining a competitive nature to challenge each other during practices.

Jalen Evans comes in as the leading distributor, averaging four assists per game last year.

Evans, along with fellow juniors Nate McKoy and Will Heard hope to provide most of the scoring for a team with a majority of players lacking varsity experience.

McKoy, at 6-3, also looks to provide a sturdy post presence on defense, especially as the Hawks search for their identity in the early going. 

“I’d like to say that we’ll be playing full court and I’d like to say that we’re going to rebound the ball and be unselfish, but all that remains to be seen in live action,” Morrison said.

“There’s some potential there, but as I tell our guys, ‘Potential means you haven’t done it yet. And so, you got to rise to that potential and make that potential kinetic energy.’”

Sophomore guard J.J. Cowan and freshman prospect Quayshaun Williams figure to play significant minutes this season as well.

Triton opens the year against a familiar tipoff foe in Overhills on Nov. 22.

Donnell Coley can be reached at dcoley@mydailyrecord.com or 910-230-2040.

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