Winston-Salem Prep team eyes perfection

Winston-Salem Prep team eyes perfection
February 05
00:00 2015
(Photos by Charles E. Leftwich, Jr., Above: Prep’s Ryan Palmer goes in for a layup.)

When it comes to junior varsity basketball in this part of the state, the beat goes on for Winston-Salem Prep. With three games left to play in the regular season, the Phoenix has its eyeballs fixated on perfection.

So far, the Lash-Chronicle Classic champions have managed to side-step complacency. Even so, it remains to be seen if arrogance will eventually inhabit the minds of Prep’s players between now and the end of the regular season on Feb. 10.

The Phoenix (16-0, 12-0 Northwest 1-A Conference) has road dates at Mount Airy and Atkins and will close out the season at home against North Stokes.

Coach Bill Tibbs readily admits that it’s becoming more difficult for him to find ways to keep his team fully motivated. Up to now, he’s been able to push all the right buttons at the right times to get the desired results. Intense practices, he explained, have gone a long way to help keep his players humble in spite of their success.

ws prep sports 2

Justin Carter makes a strong move inside the lane.

“In practice, we’re always looking for little things that will help bring everybody back down to earth,” said Tibbs. “Running has a way of changing mindsets and attitudes. But it’s not running just for the sake of it. When players miss free throws and lay-ups, they know they’re going to run. If they don’t hustle, box-out, rebound and defend with intensity, they will run. The same goes for bad body language and mouthing off. We’ve established a culture here which demands that we win with class.”

There’s nothing secretive about the Prep’s formula for winning. Share the ball on offense, go all-out on defense, and compete with controlled intensity. It also helps that Tibbs’ crew has a collective work ethic that keeps them primed and focused.

“From day one, this group has bought into everything I’ve told them,” said Tibbs. “Plus, they want to be in the gym all the time. They’re definitely not afraid of hard work.”

Prep’s jayvee squad has its share of skilled individuals on offense. Yet, there is no designated “go-to” scorer. It’s all by design. Tibbs preaches scoring balance and that’s what he’s getting. The starting five of Javier Dixon, Caleb Burgess, Justin Carter, Ryan Palmer and K.J. Watson average between 9 and 14 points per game. The scoring average for the bench as a whole is close to 7 points per player.

“When I looked over our team stats a few days ago, the first thing I noticed was how the points were distributed,” said Tibbs. “Nobody is averaging 20 points a game, but as a team, we’re averaging around 70. That’s the kind of balance we need to win consistently. If an opponent can stop one of our scorers, we have others who can step in and give us what we need.”

Aside from defense and scoring balance, Prep has benefited from the contributions of a backcourt tandem that’s as effective as any at the junior varsity level. Javier Dixon and Caleb Burgess have different playing styles, but they mesh together well. Dixon is a true point guard, who can score when needed. Burgess is fearless with the ball in his hands, but he also makes good use of his court awareness to find open teammates for good shots.

“Javier is difficult for opposing teams to deal with because he’s able to break any press defense that he faces,” said Tibbs. “Caleb can do it all. There’s no question that he understands. The biggest plus for him is his basketball IQ. It’s extremely high.”

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Craig Greenlee

Craig Greenlee

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