As first-year coach G.J. Kissal directed the Clarksburg High School boys basketball team’s preseason practice Friday, one thing was clear: the Coyotes will play a fast-paced brand of basketball this winter.
Every drill during the first 45 minutes of practice was devoted to an aspect of getting the ball up the court quickly during the transition from defense to offense. Players from both the junior varsity and varsity teams participated in a variety of drills, including ones that featured dribbling toward the basket for an easy layup or finding a teammate for an open 3-point shot.
“I like to get easy baskets,” said Kissal, who had coached at Rockville since 2007. He also was an assistant at Bullis, Bishop McNamara and Catholic University. “We want to get early offense out of transition and we want to take advantage of numbers and speed. If we don’t get a great opportunity by running the floor, we want to get a great uncontested shot off the dribble drive.”
Kissal, who replaced Larry Hurd during the offseason, is in the process of implementing his philosophies and an aggressive identity on the Clarksburg program. He said the Coyotes will score more points than in years past and will showcase much more man-to-man defense and trapping looks than in previous seasons.
Players also have said he has fostered a family-type environment.
“I am a born and bred man-to-man guy,” he said. “We are getting there, but we have a ways to go. There’s certainly been an adjustment period for me and the players learning a new system. At some point in the next two years — the potential here is great — it will happen. It is like waiting Novocain to take.”
Added junior forward Josh Hardy: “It’s different because in practice we have to have at least two ball reversals before we even think about scoring to make sure everyone touches the ball. But he also gives us a lot of freedom because if we can beat our man, he wants us to attack the basket as soon as you get [the ball].”
Clarksburg, which opened in 2006, experienced had a lot of turnover on its roster and just two starters return in junior guard Dennis Singleton and Hardy. Kissal said each player may see a drop in their statistical production, but will be better players for the team.
“There will be nights where those guys lead us, but ideally I think we got seven or eight guys that can get 20 points on any given night,” Kissal said. “Our job in the system is to find the right play that the defense dictates. I can see us having seven guys average between eight and 11 points.”
With all the changes and a new team, Kissal isn’t into making predictions for a team that went 13-10 and 14-10 each of the past two seasons. After reigning 4A state champion Col. Zadok Magruder, the 4A West Region is wide open.
“I can swing [a prediction] either way depending on what lens you look through,” he said. “The only thing I can guarantee is that we will work harder than anybody.”