Scott County Central boys basketball team finds edge in fitness

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Scott County Central's Dominique Porter goes up for a shot against Chadwick in the second quarter of the Class 1 quarterfinal Saturday, March 12, 2011 in Poplar Bluff, Mo. (Fred Lynch)

MORLEY, Mo. -- Scott County Central basketball players get one day to settle into school.

Then the running starts, and it doesn't let up.

It doesn't matter that it's August.

"The running in practice is just part of it," SCC senior Stewart Johnson said. "Before the season, we run around our baseball field. Every other day we run miles. We don't just start when the season starts. We start running the second day of school."

Calvin Porter spent his freshman and sophomore years at Jackson High School before transferring to SCC. He said the amount of running at Jackson practices doesn't come close to the amount at an SCC practice.

Scott County Central's Trey Johnson and Stewart Johnson apply pressure to Oran ballhandler Tyler Heuring during the Scott-Mississippi Conference tournament in January. (Fred Lynch)

"I didn't think it was going to be that much running," he said. "It was hard at first, but it got easier with time."

Johnson, who has participated in the running routine since his freshman year, considers Porter lucky.

"He might have bad knees if he was here the first two years," Johnson said.

The players lament the copious amount of running but recognize the role it plays in their success. They are two wins away from their third consecutive Class 1 state title.

"It makes a really, really big difference because we have the endurance to go longer," Porter said. "Other teams will get tired and we're just able to keep going, whether it's the third or fourth quarter."

SCC loves to run other teams into the ground. The Braves employ a harassing defense to create turnovers, which lead to easy baskets. Their defense runs like a machine and feeds their offense.

"It's something you have to instill in them that coming out here and running, it isn't for me," SCC coach Kenyon Wright said. "It's for themselves. To come out here and run, they want to go out there and look good in a basketball game. They can't go out there and look good if they're tired. They can't do the things they want to do if they're tired. Getting out there and having them extra legs in the fourth quarter makes a big difference in big games."

The Braves' superior conditioning usually draws comments from the opposition.

"I think it was the championship game of the Christmas tournament, one of the Jackson kids told us that, 'You all are fast. You don't seem to get tired.' We put in a lot of work for this," SCC junior Dominique Porter said.

The running in practice serves a dual purpose. It's intended to improve conditioning and work on game situations with sets that include running backward and a lot of starting and stopping.

"That's what we do in a game -- we start and we stop," Calvin Porter said. "Whether it's a quick turnover and we got to turn around and get back on defense or if there's a steal, we have to turn around and get that fast break.

"That goes along with backpedaling. If we get a turnover and we're still going down the court, we might have to turn around and start back down the court. Or in the case of stopping the ball."

The amount of running varies each day. Wright said he likes to play it by ear, although he tends to ease up the day before a game.

"They come out here and they're going hard and they're working hard, I might slack off a little bit on it," he said. "But when it comes down to it, they know it's the game plan to get out here and be in shape and be able to play harder than any other team in the fourth quarter. To do that, they have to be in tremendous shape. And to play like we want to play, they have to be in tremendous shape."

The players playfully argue over how much running they'll have to do as they try to catch their breath, either bent over at the waist or their hands on their hips. But they know it won't do any good.

"If we want to go to state like we are now, we've got to put in the hard work," Dominique Porter said. "It just means you got to go out and do it. Don't complain about it or anything like that. You always want to give up, but that just gets you stronger each day. That just makes you better as a basketball player not to give up."

The motivation for each player varies. They try to focus on something positive when they feel like they can't run any more.

"This year I had to put the mind frame that I wanted a starting spot," Dominique Porter said. "So that's what I put my mind frame on."

Said Johnson: "What I do to keep myself going at the beginning of the year throughout the whole year is the state championship. The state championship motivates me. That's what's motivated me a lot this year. It's like helped me step my game up."

Wright said the reason for all the running boils down to one thing.

"If they're running in here and busting their butts as hard as they can go when they're in here, the games will be easy," he said.

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