Head coach Derrick Atkinson is eagerly embracing a second season in his mission to change the narrative of Community Christian School varsity boys basketball.
Atkinson, in his second season, is coming off a rousing start when his Cyclones posted a 20-7 record, finished second in the South Division of the Mid-Atlantic Christian Athletic Association and reached the MACAA championship game — where they suffered a hard-fought loss to Jacksonville Christian.
Gone are five frontline seniors from the 2022-23 edition, but Atkinson, not short on optimism, contends, at the conclusion of the upcoming season, CCS will flaunt a record superior to the one compiled by last season’s state runner-up group.
“I’m really excited,” Atkinson expressed. “This is a better shooting team. This group is a lot smaller, but the attitudes are right. They have bought into the system – and the system works. I think we will end up with a better record.
CCS will field a 15-player roster. Atkinson explained he is keeping 15 players because: “This is the first time I’ve ever had that many players with the right attitudes. They have busted their behinds. Also, sophomores can’t play on the junior varsity and we are carrying (five) sophomores to help prepare them for varsity play.”
Another source of excitement for Atkinson is a revamped staff of himself, associate head coach Jim Kovach and assistant coach Ken Atkinson, a CCS former head coach.
The Cyclones tip off their ambitious season at home on the Peace Church court Nov. 14 against Christ Covenant. CCS will play most of its home games at Peace and a couple at Sallie B. Howard.
But the varsity boys game will not follow the varsity girls this season. Because of not enough athletes expressing interest, CCS will not field a varsity girls team in 2023-24.
Derrick Atkinson has heard mention of the CCS boys program being referred to as a “joke” because of choosing to play at a higher level. CCS joined the NCISAA’s 1-A/2-A Coastal Plain Independents Conference a few years back and struggled. Derrick Atkinson reasons the Cyclones now compete at a complimentary level. They are where they need to be.
“We are not a joke,” the head coach warned. “We are going to change the narrative.”
Tavares Williams, a 5-foot-11 senior, is the only returning starter and he is being counted upon to “do it all” after a junior season that produced 13 points and 8 rebounds per game. Williams is joined by senior Grant Barnes and junior Cale Pittman in seeing significant action last season.
Also back are 6-1 junior Cameron Harris, junior guard Jarrett Kovach and 5-10 junior Camden Harold..
Derrick Atkinson also notes many of the players have been coached by him at intervals since the sixth grade.
The versatile Williams is deemed capable of producing 20 points and 10 rebounds per game this season. Derrick Atkinson warns that enough firepower is available that as many as three Cyclones could score 20 or more points the same game.
But the Princeton (flex) offense and man-to-man pressure defense will start with Williams, who can play all five positions.
The possessor of a 4.3 grade-point average, Williams is stronger, an improved leader and an aggressive defender.
“He knows where everybody needs to be on the court,” Williams’ coach said. “He is the floor general. When he gets the rebound, we’re going. Tavares is a great ball-handler, a good shooter and a great rebounder. He can do it all. He has an old-school game and plays the game the right way.”
Kovach led the team in steals last season, and Derrick Atkinson noted: “He has great hands and great footwork. He shoots the lights out, but he may not be the best shooter on the team.”
Pittman is the blue-collar player who does the dirty work and is dubbed “Dennis Rodman on the court.
The head coach is especially excited about the addition of sophomore Chason Bryant, a sophomore transfer from Raleigh Christian.
“He’s a smart player,” Derrick Atkinson commended. “He’s really good with the ball and plays defense with great intensity. The kid may be the best shooter on the team.”
Gattis, at point guard, has been coached by the head coach since the sixth grade.
“He’s tough,” Derrick Atkinson assured. “He’s a little bit ahead of his time. Evan does well as a ball handler and shooter. He’s faster, quicker and stronger.
Jack Beamon, a 6-7 freshman, is fast progressing toward starting consideration.
“He can run like a deer,” Derrick Atkinson observed. “He wants to learn and can maybe show off with a few dunks.”
Beamon will be joined by Harris, Harold and Barnes as first off the bench. Jamavion Williams, Colton McFarland, Connor Ferguson and Tyler Spivey are the other sophomores. McFarland will be sidelined 6-8 weeks with a wrist injury. Senior Carlos Ventura Cruz and junior Dylan Evans are bidding for playing time.
Playing time for 15 players is a primary concern for Derrick Atkinson. The effort and learning have been positives. Togetherness and the willingness to work must not falter.
“Everybody has to be on the same page and no player is more important than the other,” Derrick Atkinson stressed. “A lot of them are coaches on the floor.”
He expects his Cyclones to join Jacksonville and New Bern as the probable top three in the 14-team league. CCS’ regular-season date with Jacksonville is already marked.
“We have arrived, and they are going to hear us this season,” the head coach concluded.
Tavares Williams F/G 5-11 12
Grant Barnes F 5-9 12
Carlos Ventura Cruz F 5-8 12
Jarrett Kovach G 5-9 11
Cameron Harris G 6-1 11
Camden Harold F 5-10 11
Cale Pittman F 5-11 11
Dylan Evans F 5-9 11
Chason Bryant G/F 6-2 10
Jermavion Williams F 6-1 10
Colton McFarland G 5-8 10
Connor Ferguson G 5-9 10
Tyler Spivey G 5-9 10
Evan Gattis G 5-10 9
Jack Beamon C 6-7 9
Nov. 14 Christ Covenant
Nov. 17 Cape Fear Christian tourney
Nov. 18 Cape Fear Christian tourney
Nov. 20 Jacksonville Christian
Nov. 28 at Faith Christian
Dec. 1 Trinity Christian
Dec. 4 at ENCSD
Dec. 7 Ahoskie Christian
Dec. 8 DASH
Dec. 11 Bethel Christian
Dec. 12 at Ahoskie Christian
Dec. 14 Pacers homeschool
Jan. 5 at Hobgood Academy
Jan. 12 at Bethel Christian
Jan. 18 Hobgood Academy
Jan. 19 at Gramercy Christian
Jan. 23 Faith Christian
Jan. 26 at Pamlico Christian
Jan. 29 at Pacers homeschool
Jan. 30 at Christ Covenant
Feb. 2 New Bern Christian
Feb. 9 at Southside Christian
Feb. 12 at Trinity Christian