The Bearden boys basketball team is off to an undefeated start to the season after beating Cleveland 67-48 last Tuesday.
Two weeks ago, the Bulldogs (8-0) won the Food City Thanksgiving Classic at Sullivan East High School. Senior guard A.J. Pruitt won MVP of the tournament and is coming off a strong junior season where he averaged 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2.5 steals.
Last year, the Bulldogs went 23-9 and made it to the region semi-finals despite many players getting their first taste of significant playing time. The only returner who got playing time on the state championship team two years ago was forward Tyler Nordin, who suffered a season ending knee injury early last year. This gave younger players a chance to play more minutes earlier than anticipated.
“Most of the seniors and a couple of the current juniors played significant minutes a year ago,” Coach Jeremy Parrott said. “However, A.J. was the only one whose season was not interrupted by injury at some point.
“Even with all the chaos with injuries, these guys did grow and ultimately had a nice season, just not an ending that we expect at Bearden. Now that we have remained pretty healthy so far, the experiences from last season are helping greatly.”
Bearden plays at Maryville (4-3) on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
“I think with more experience comes more chemistry, and that chemistry really shows when we are out there on the court,” Pruitt said. “We make team plays and very little selfish plays.”
Starting off a season with success can give a team confidence and can show the potential of a successful season with a deep postseason run, which is exactly what this team has their eyes on.
“Kicking off this season 8-0 gives us confidence because we know we can beat anyone and play with anyone as long as we do the little things and stay within our roles,” Pruitt said. “ It’s key that we continue to work hard and not become satisfied, especially headed into a deep part of our schedule.”
Added Coach Parrott: “Success early can be critical to long term success as an indicator of potential, or it can lead to complacency. We have to build on early success. Stay hungry.”
After a disappointing loss to end the season in the region semifinals last year, the Bulldogs have high aspirations for this season.
“This group thinks they should be one of the top eight in Tennessee (at the state tournament) when March arrives,” Coach Parrott said, “and put themselves into a position to make noise.”