Boys Varsity Basketball · Bulldogs only getting better as Pember returns to full strength

Bearden boys basketball’s injury struggles have finally come to an end.

The beginning of the season was plagued with injury and a shortened bench. Despite the lack of depth and healthy big men, the Bulldogs found a way to be successful and have only grown in strength as the season has progressed and the team has returned to full strength.

Tennessee signee Drew Pember’s return from injury has been huge for the team and will be extremely important as the postseason approaches.

The team had to adjust to Pember’s absence early season, but were able to do so and maintained their high level of play.

“It has been a long road for the team,” said senior Kordell Kah, who shouldered the vast majority of the responsibilities in the post in the absence of Pember and senior Shamarcus Brown.

“We had to go a lot smaller until (Pember) got back.”

Brown and Pember are both back to full strength again, giving Bearden the depth and versatility they need in the post, as Kah, Brown, and Pember each bring a different skill set.

Going small required smaller players to match up against larger post players and gave less experienced players the opportunity to play in big games.

Having Pember back in the lineup is important to for the whole team.

“Having him available is huge for us because it allows us to sub and rotate more at the post,” Coach Jeremy Parrott said. “Having him healthy means that we are more formidable.”

Pember’s return has been felt by his teammates as well. They are excited to be playing with a full team again.

“We have a lot less worries,” Kah said. “Foul trouble is not a big deal anymore. We have our depth back, and that’s always been one of our strong suits.”

Pember is grateful to be back as well and has learned valuable lessons from his recovery process.

“Not being able to play with my teammates hurt a lot,” Pember said. “It motivated me to get back faster than expected, I learned to never take anything for granted.”

Bearden (21-5, 13-1 District 4-AAA) will look to avenge an early season loss against Maryville (25-1, 14-0) on Tuesday at 7:30 at home. In their first matchup, Bearden was missing key players due to injury, but now in full health, they expect the outcome to be different.

“All I know is we are going to be at full strength, and we weren’t then,” Coach Parrott said. “I can tell you that we are a much better basketball team now than we were then.”