ELIZABETHTOWN — East Bladen coach Ken Cross, entering his fourth season at the Eagles’ helm, lost three solid seniors to graduation in all-conference player Farrell Murchison, his big-body brother Larrell Murchison and wing player Matt Massengill. But the biggest loss may be William McMillian as his right-hand man.
McMillian, who has been Cross’ assistant coach for the pat 14 seasons, recently welcomed a baby into the family and will sit this season out.
“It’s going to be different,” Cross said recently. “William understood what we were trying to do, and often acted as a buffer between me an the players.”
East Bladen is coming off a 10-14 overall record and 5-9 mark in the Four County Conference, losing to West Bladen 58-53 in the first round of the state’s Class 2-A playoffs. It was only the second losing season for Cross in the past 25 seasons of coaching.
The Eagles, who played into the second round of the football playoffs, have had only a few practices for the eight football players who came out for the team — including twins Ethan and Eian Hines, Chris Cromartie, Trevor Lloyd, Sincere Smith, Derrick Burney, Ty McMillian and Jonathan Melvin.
“They will all need time to get into basketball shape,” Cross said. “And I’m not even sure yet exactly who will stay with the team. It all depends on the effort and skill.”
In addition to those players, Cross also has Dayvon Powell, Denzel Johnson, Adonis Avery, Demetrius Wooten, Jermaine Robinson and DeAndre Newkirk to look at.
“I’ll be making decisions based on chemistry and who can start as we go along,” Cross said. “But starting is overrated, usually. Many times it’s who finishes games that’s important.”
Cross said he plans to implement a running style of offense because of all the speed he will have on the floor. On defense, he expects to play a man-to-man.
“We will be emphasizing conditioning and defense,” he said.
As far as how the conference may shape up this season, Cross said he thinks Clinton, Midway and West Bladen will be the teams to beat. He added that Pender County should be improved, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get to conference games,” Cross said. “A lot of work in a short amount of time. Some schools have a two-week head start on us.”
The Eagles opened the season Tuesday against St. Pauls (see story at left) and will host East Columbus on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.