By Gary Lloyd
First-year Hewitt-Trussville basketball coach Zane Arnold has jokes.
Until tipoff, when smiling faces turn stone-cold, when wandering minds focus.
“I’ll tell the first one, I’ll tell all the jokes you want to hear, but when it’s time for that ball to go up, it’s time to focus and get after it,” Arnold said after Hewitt-Trussville’s fourth-place finish in last week’s Jaguar Classic at Spain Park.
Arnold, who spent the past seven seasons as the head coach at Parkway Christian Academy, does not sit down during games. He stands and, at 6-foot-7, towers over just about everyone on the hardwood. He tries to stay sitting during games, but it’s difficult for him.
“I try to sit down when it starts, but once it starts, I’m up,” he said. “I’m in the game. If I’m sitting down, I might miss something. I can see it all (standing up).”
A lot of movement is key in Hewitt-Trussville practices, and the first 15 minutes contain a lot of up-and-down the court drills
. The key is to practice at a game pace.
“It’s all about our effort and just never giving up,” said junior guard Jarvis Calhoun. “He’s always active.”
The players are taking on their coach’s personality. Calhoun said the intensity level at practice continues to rise.
“The practices are a lot more physical,” he said.
Senior Matt Duffett knows physicality in basketball. At 6-foot-5, Duffett is the Huskies’ tallest player and routinely defends teams’ strongest post players.
“We’re being more aggressive and getting after it,” Duffett said.
Arnold, who played at Auburn from 1987-1991, said when he was hired in April 2012 that he favored an up-tempo offense and man-to-man defense. The Huskies are showing signs of a quick offense and a pressing defense.
“He wants us to reach that next level and just keep pushing and keep pushing,” Calhoun said. “He wants maximum effort out of us. He knows we can push ourselves further than where we are.”
The Huskies, by win-loss record, are not one of the state’s elite teams this season. Not yet.
“It’s a process, but once we hit that stride, if we can put a string together, these guys are going to see and we’re going to be on a roll that’s hard to stop,” Arnold said.
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