Central coach taking inventory of new-look team

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Derek McCord and the Central basketball team could spend a lot of time thinking about what they don't have this year.

McCord instead is putting in a lot of time trying to find out just what he does have.

"We have to develop an identity," McCord said Wednesday after his team completed its third practice session in preparation for the 2004-05 basketball season.

"We're young, we're not very big and we don't have a lot of experience," McCord said. "We've got to find something to give us an advantage, and we want to get better every day.

"The effort and attitude is all you can ask for and I like this team. I'm optimistic. A lot of people are counting us our and I think we can slip up on some people before it's over."

McCord, who said he enjoys the teaching aspect, is getting that opportunity in the early practices for the Tigers. With some players still expected to come in when the fall sports season ends, McCord currently has just three seniors on the floor for the first week of practice.

Eli Harris is the leading returning scorer with an 8.9 points per game scoring average. He was an occasional starter last year before suffering an injury.

Gone from last year are Ryan Delph, who was the team's leading scorer at 16.7 points per game and is now at Mineral Area College. Jake Knepp, 8.8 points per game, is playing at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy.

Also gone are Scott Chestnutt, who has transferred to McCluer North in St. Louis County after an arrest in the fall, and Xavier Delph, who transferred to Notre Dame and will be playing at the subvarsity level this winter.

Ninty-two percent of last year's scoring is gone, McCord noted.

"There's some good in a young team," said McCord, entering his fourth season. "They're going to learn a lot.

"Our coaching staff has been doing two-a-days, staying at every freshman practice for as long as we can. When you build a house, you don't start with the game room or living room, you start with the foundation."

McCord said he has emphasized hustle, listening skills, unselfishness as well as basketball skills.

"We have two goals in practice," he said. "We want to teach our players to compete and improve their skills. In the first three days, I can see them learning the difference between playing hard and competing."

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