By Ronn Rowland
Phoenix Sports Writer
If you ask Muskogee boys basketball coach Josh Berry how long he’s been ready to get this season started, he doesn’t even hesitate with an answer.
“We’ve been ready for it since the season ended against Union last year,” he said.
Well, he won’t have to wait much longer as the Roughers leave for Dallas Friday morning for the Ted Purcell Classic.
Being the only area school playing on Thanksgiving weekend, Muskogee tips off its first game of the tournament at 7 p.m. Friday against the host school Faith Family Academy, who is 7-0 on the season, and Berry feels this will be as tough a test as there is for his team to start the year.
“I’m excited,” Berry said. “We’re playing against a team starting off that’s undefeated and won their district last year. They’re really good and beaten some really good schools already. It will be a good challenge for us.”
The Roughers return all but one person from a squad that finished 8-16, bowing out to Union in the first round of the Class 6A regional. However, three of the returnees happen to be the top three scorers in forward Anthony King, guard David Beasley and center Tramal Ivy. All three seniors averaged 13 points per game. Both King (6.8 rebounds) and Ivy (9.7 rebounds) are latecomers due to football season.
“Scrimmages look good but we still haven’t had all of our pieces for every scrimmage,” Berry said. “We get King back (today) and Tramal had a few (football recruiting) visits he had to go to. But our younger group has stepped up the last few scrimmages.”
One player that Berry looks for good things from this year is Lavare Reed. The 6-3 junior forward had low scoring numbers in 2012-13 but has been working in the offseason to improve those numbers.
“I put in a lot of work,” Reed said. “That’s what coach told me to do and hopefully it will pay off in the end. I was focused more getting on my vertical and scoring the ball more. I did that a little last year and plan on doing it more this year.”
Reed is hoping the outcome of this weekend will springboard the Roughers to a hot start to the season.
“I’d like to go down to Dallas and win the championship,” he said. “And then come back on next week and beat Sapulpa. That would give us a great start.”
Another Rougher that Berry is high on is Cantrell Ashley, a 5-11 junior guard. Ashley said he is more that anxious to get the season underway, even if the opener is five hours away.
“Going to Texas, you don’t get to face them a lot,” he said. “We get to see what they look like. It’s a chance to face new competition.”
As far as the how the team looks getting ready for the opener, Berry shifts into coach-speak mode.
“It’s not always as bad as you think and not always as good as you think,” he said. “We’re just kind of ready to play in a game and see where we’re actually at.”
And as far as the rest of the season, Ashley’s main goal is the ultimate prize.
“To win a state championship,” he said. “That’s my expectations right now for the team. That’s what we’re looking forward to this year.”