by Becky Kimbrell-Norris
WAKE FOREST — The Franklin Academy boys basketball team will begin the 2013-14 season with high hopes.
The Patriots, who lost five players from last year, including their three top scorers, bring back a motivated, young core of athletes who will attempt to increase the team’s win total this year and beyond.
This year’s squad will have the formidable task of bettering their 9-14 record of a year ago and that mark could serve as motivation for them this season.
Last year, the Patriots scored about 53 points a game but shot a dismal 38 percent from the field and struggled all season with turnovers, averaging 18 a game. They ended their season with a loss in the first round of the state 1A playoffs.
“This season, we have to be a better passing team,” said Franklin Academy basketball coach Matt Durkin. “All five on the floor need to get touches and assists.”
“In addition, we have to turn the floor on offense and shorten the floor on defense and learn from our mistakes and don’t dwell on them and move on to the next possession,” he added.
Durkin believes the team genuinely cares about fulfilling their roles for the benefit of the team.
“It appears that nobody cares who gets the credit and scores the most points,” he said.
“This is a team without a star, and therefore they rely on each other and the concept of unity,” Durkin added. “Our hope is that is stays this way because we have the potential to be very competitive.”
This season, the Patriots will compete in a new league, the North Central Athletic Conference after playing in the Carolina 12 1A/2A.
“I think playing in the new conference will help our chances,” Durkin said. “These young men accomplished some very good things last season including beating a 2A team for the first time.”
“We competed closely with other 2A schools and finished third among the 1A’s,” Durkin added.
These achievements should provide a different level of optimism, confidence and belief in the team’s capabilities in the new conference, said Durkin.
“There are some great programs in the new conference, some of which we have a storied history and we look forward to renewing old rivalries,” Durkin said.
Member schools of the North Central Athletic Conference include: East Wake Academy, Kestrel Heights, Raleigh Charter, River Mill Academy, Roxboro Community, Voyager Academy and Woods Charter.
While two Franklin Academy players graduated in 2013 and two transferred to other schools one player decided not to try out this year. So this year the team’s direction is being shaped with help from the returning players.
Senior Evan Uhlig, a forward and Drew Mormann, a senior guard are back along with juniors Brandon Hanson, a forward/guard, who averaged 11 points a game last season. Guards Andrew Weis and Tyler Melton, both juniors, also return.
Chase Moseley, a sophomore guard is back too.
New players include Joe Lamers, a senior guard. He will be joined by junior Devon McCluskey, a forward/guard who led the Patriots junior varsity team in scoring last season.
Also moving up from the junior varsity is Matthew Pertz, a junior guard and sophomore, Jacob Faulkner, who plays guard.
Durkin said it’s the team’s chemistry that is a key to progression as the season begins.
“We have solid relationships across the board, which means our team has the potential for great chemistry that we did not possess last year,” Durkin said. “We do not have a lot of floor time with the current group, so it will take a little while before the whole chemistry develops.”
“We also have great overall leadership on and off the floor,” Durkin said. “We are a much more intelligent, aggressive and confident team than last year.”
Durkin added that his players finished 7-1 this summer at the East Carolina Summer Camp, playing against 3A and 4A basketball teams.
The Patriots want to compete in every game and want to improve throughout the season and will relay on its speed and athleticism.
“We are a guard oriented team because we are not very big in the paint,” he said. “While our offensive system will be relatively similar, our defensive system is almost entirely new and will take some time to teach, execute and master.
Durkin said team goals are always measurable, attainable and detail oriented.
“We want to cut our turnovers down to less than 15 and we want to lead the league in charges taken,” he said. “We also want ten plus assists a game and we want to create havoc and chaos on defense and create turnovers for our opponents.”
While the Patriots will bring determination and speed to the court, their expectations of returning to the state playoffs are a great motivator.
“In order to advance and get the program’s first state tournament win, we will have to reach our goals and stay unified throughout the ups and downs of a season,” Durkin said.
He is looking at it as a two to three year process to change the culture, mindset and level of play for those within the program.
“Last year we expected to compete despite our youth and with an offseason under new leadership complete we now expect to compete at an even higher level,” Durkin said. “We’ll execute at an even higher level and be solidly unified behind the core principles of character, scholarship, discipline, accountability and commitment.”
The Patriots open their season at home on Thursday, November 7 at 7:30 p.m. against Lighthouse.