With all the new things when it comes to the Nation Ford basketball program at the school, one would think the only thing missing is that new car smell.
Both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams have new head coaches in Kelly Bennett for the girls and Charles Brown for the boys.
For the boy’s team, they are coming off a similar 6-18 record. Brown comes to Nation Ford from Central High School in Pageland.
His team also returns multiple players from last season such as JJ Rembert, Sheldon Joseph, Nic Chuttey and Caden Giles, to name a few.
“Not to single anyone out, I believe all the players have the ability to be an impact player on any given night,” Brown said. “Since I came in, JJ Rembert is the heart leader of the program. He is everything you look for in a point guard. Caden is a rim protector and is a great defender. He is one of the best passers we have on the team. Sheldon is more of a Swiss Army Knife. There is nothing he can’t do. He does it all.
“Coming off the bench, Jackson Falkner is going to give it his all on the court. I saw that back in conditioning. He brings energy off the bench. Turner Blackwood and Nic Chuttey will space the floor out.”
Brown said the keys to improvement this year are getting the team to buy in to the system he is installing.
“I enjoy what I do,” he said. “If I can get them to be the best that they can be every day, the sky is the limit. They are giving me their full attention. We are building relationships. All I ask is for them to be who they are and I am going to be who I am and we are going to meet in the middle somewhere.”
Nation Ford opens the season Monday at Fort Mill High in the Milltown Classic against Westminster Catawba.
For the girl’s team, Bennett comes from Clover where he was an assistant under long time coach Sherer Hopkins. Nation Ford finished 6-20 last year with a very young team. This year’s team is still young with no seniors to go with five juniors and seven sophomores, but Bennett said he has seen growth from watching them play last year to seeing where they are now.
“I feel great,” Bennett said. “Maybe I shouldn’t feel this great, but they work hard and give me everything they got. They are buying in and we are working. They want to get better.”
Bennett said his goals are simple and coming off a year where they struggled, he wants his team to be in every game by the end of the fourth quarter.
“Our goals are to compete in every game,” he said. “Our goal is to finish games, no matter what happens throughout.”
Bennett said playoffs are feasible and feels like if the team can click, things should be exciting.
“We have played against hard competition throughout the off season,” he said. “If we click like I know we can, we can make a run.”
Coming back this year will be the Falcons’ floor general sophomore Camille Kerridge. Kerridge was the team’s go-to player for nearly everything last year, which put a lot of pressure on her. Bennett said that will change this season under his coaching.
“Camille has done a great job facilitating,” he said. “She has done a great job on the floor getting her teammates involved. She has turned the corner. She believes in her teammates and she has assisted more than she has scored. It is a good thing. It is even more dangerous on her behalf. The depth of our team is going to surprise a lot of people. The younger ones can play too. There is more than just Camille. It’s not going to be the Camille show. That is not fair to her and its not fair to the other players. She doesn’t have to carry the load.”
The Falcons open the 2022-2023 season this Monday as part of the Milltown Classic playing at Catawba Ridge where they tip off the season against last year’s 2A Lower State champion Andrew Jackson.
Keith Cooke contributed to this article.
Mac Banks: firstname.lastname@example.org, @fortprep