For Elsberry Indians Head Coach Ryan Parker, the early season Peoples Bank and Trust Tournament is a perfect benchmark to find out where his team is and where he plans to take them.
“We schedule this tournament to learn about our team and what areas we need to work on,” said Parker. “You only get better by playing great competition and we got better last week.”
In this type of tournament when smaller class schools are playing 4A and 5A teams, the score doesn’t always tell how the game was played.
“We know going in that we are probably not going 3-0 and we are fine with that as long as we get better,” said Parker.
And getting better is something his young squad did very well.
In the first two games against Hazelwood East and Francis Howell, Elsberry struggled with pressure and size from the guard spot turning the ball over at an alarming rate. Elsberry’s guards average 5’10” compared to East and Howell’s guards at 6’3”, which makes it harder to throw over the top or see through traps.
“What we learned there is that we have to value the basketball and the traps and constant pressure got to us along with the size of the other teams guards,” said Parker.
In the final game against Troy the Indians only turned the ball over six times.
“We got better!” said Parker. “Whatever pressure we see from here on out will be nothing like those first two games.”
On offense it was consistent play from Junior Center Kenny Lesley that led the Indians, averaging 24.7 points per game and setting the top mark with 74 points total for the tournament.
In the 68-54 loss to Hazelwood East Elsberry’s Rahiem Porter was the only other player to reach double figures with 16 points. The next game it was Dylan Howard with 11 points in the 67-45 loss to Francis Howell and Porter once again with 15 points in the 62-51 win over Troy on Friday night.
With only two players each night in double figures, Parker says that he needs a bit more scoring from the two other guard spots.
“We need to be a lot more balanced!” said Parker. “I think we will see that progress throughout the year.”
The 11 points against Francis Howell from Howard is something Parker would love to have all year long.
“We have to do a better job of utilizing Dylan’s strengths.” said Parker. “There are games this year that we need him to step up and he is more than capable of that. His jumper is good, has good size and plays extremely hard and those are some of the keys to being a great player.”
After coaching the Indians for the past several years, Parker has consistently preached team first and that it will take a team to win, not just relying on Lesley or any one player to be the go to guy.
“Lesley could average 100 points per game and we/he could care less….it is all about the WIN!” said Parker. “Kenny is a great player there is no denying that, but you have to have a TEAM to win. I’m not trying to take anything away from Kenny but we have some other really good players on this team as well.”
And as the season rolls on the Indians will rely heavily on those players as they continue playing for tournament titles and post-season championships.
The Indians will have back-to-back games against Van-Far (Monday) and Monroe City (Tuesday) starting around 7:30 p.m.
Both games will be broadcast live on The Indian Sports Network.