LEWISBURG — Joe Smith returns to his Alma Mater — Tri-County North — with hopes of turning around the boys basketball program.
And the first-year coach said he plans on being around for a while.
“We’ll see the kids working hard on both ends of the floor,” Smith, a 2002 TCN graduate, said. “You’ll see a lot of youth, also. My goal is to be here for 10 years so I’ve got to start developing. We are going to play as hard as we can with guys that want to do the job. The kids are definitely buying into it. Practices are going great. They’re understanding if you do the little things its going to equal the big picture, but if you slack at times it’s not going to pay off.”
The Panthers return five players with varsity experience from a 4-19 team, including two starters — senior Zach Edgin and junior Gabe Brinson.
Other players returning with varsity experience include sophomore Brian Stinson, senior Bailey Lairson and junior James Fry.
Smith said he is looking at sophomore Josh Heindl, senior Terrell Lewis, and seniors Branson Parsons and Josh Shephard to make in an impact as well.
Rounding out the roster are sophomore Phil Lockwood, senior Jayson Wood and sophomore Preston Jackson.
“You’ll see us play a lot faster this year. We’re going to try and push the tempo a little more,” Smith said. ” Everybody’s got a role here. I don’t need 10 guys in the program that want to score 50, I need 10 guys that will do everything.”
Smith, who is the third coach in three years, said despite winning only four games last year, the Panthers were competitive. But he wants to see more results.
“We just want to take it to that next level. We don’t want to just be, ‘Tri-County North’s a good 2-18 team,’ we want to be that team that everybody’s like ‘it’s going to be a dogfight every night,” Smith said. “But we want to work hard every night.”
Smith, who was the freshman and junior varsity coach last year, said he wants to get rid of the stigma that playing North is an automatic win.
“For me, it’s we’re going to win everything,” Smith said. “If it’s a one-on-one drill in practice or whatever, I’m as big on winning as ‘I tie my shoes better than you.’ There’s open competition everyday in practice. Nobody’s guaranteed. We want hard work every day.”
North is scheduled to open the season on Saturday, Dec. 3, hosting Middletown Madison, then the Panthers are scheduled to play at Franklin on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH