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Young Farmers fighting to keep pace
If there had been but one thing on Union head coach Johnny Simmons’ Christmas wish list, it would certainly be experience.
Experience comes with time, of which Simmons’ players have plenty of.
“In the past two years, we’ve graduated nine guys, so this team is almost completely new,” Simmons said.
The young farmers have fought tooth and nail to a 3-10 overall record, something Simmons said doesn’t illustrate how hard his team has played.
“Obviously when you’re sitting at (3-10), things haven’t gone as you’ve planned,” he said. “We’re just young. We’ve come up short on a lot of things. We start off doing things the right way and then we get away from it. We’ve got to learn to trust the system and our guys have to become coachable. But I love this team, and I think we will be a good team, whether that is in January or next season.”
Simmons said it was tough to point out one specific player who has stood out on his squad, but he did mention leading scorer LaGregrious Bradford, a rare upperclassmen on the team, who the Farmers run their offense through.
“Guys are still learning how to carry the load and be a leader,” Simmons said. “It isn’t any one person who has stepped up right now because they just don’t know how. Hopefully down the stretch someone will step up. LaGregrious is going to have the ball in his hands a lot and he’s not a very vocal kid, but he is going to be good. We just have to find a fit to where everyone is comfortable and they don’t have to think so much. The (varsity) game is fast and you don’t have time to think, you have to react and that’s one of our problems.”
Union was one of many teams who recently took part in the 2014 Theodis Lee Basketball Tournament at the Civic Center in Monroe.
The Farmers had a tough outing against District 2-3A rival Rayville and came out on the wrong side of a 74-33 final score.
However, Simmons said his team was able to take away positive experience from the event.
“For them to be in that arena, on that court and in that type of atmosphere was big for them,” he said. “We didn’t play well. Some of it was nerves, some of it was youthful mistakes, but overall we did okay. We’re just awfully young and we are just taking up all of the experience we can get right now.”
As most students around enjoyed the holiday break, the Farmers were hard at work. Simmons said he and his staff have to do a better job of refining the roles of his players and he praised the work ethic of his team as well.
“The kids are working hard,” he said. “They are trying to do what we ask them to do. They are just overwhelmed. Some teams they are playing against are just better, they’re more experienced. We get into situations that are complicated — situations where the team must pull from experience to overcome, but there is none there. We haven’t had a lot of success in the ‘Wins’ column, but the kids are working as hard as they can and if they can accept the coaching and play for each other, they will be fine.”
One of the aspects Simmons pointed out was his team needing to understand new roles.
“Young guys think their role is to come in and score and that’s not the case,” he said. “They may need to be a facilitator, a rebounder or a good ball carrier. We have to identify the roles we want to put these guys in. Once we do that I think we will be a better team moving forward. These growing pains are something we expected, but the team has just got to learn to look out for each other and play together.”
Simmons said he will continue searching for the improvement he has been preaching to his team from day one. »

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