Ardmore boys basketball aims for state tourney under new coach

Beau Bearden
bbearden@gannett.com

Sometimes life gives you an opportunity that is too good to turn down. That was the case for Kyle Jessie as he was looking to go somewhere new and found the perfect fit with the Ardmore High School boys basketball team.

“Ardmore is a tradition-rich program and I knew for the foreseeable future, they’re going to be a staple in Class 5A,” Jessie said. “It was a career move for me — I felt like it was the right time to move on to a bigger classification.”

Jessie takes over a program that returns seven Tigers who played significant minutes last season. That includes a good amount of underclassmen, which gives a new coach plenty to build on for the future.

“It’s been a transition unlike any other transition,” Jessie said. “I was hired in April. And with COVID and everything, we got a month to be here in the summer. We’ve had a good turnout in the offseason workouts, but it’s definitely been difficult. Day by day, you take a different approach.”

And that’s especially the case with no guarantee that teams will play their entire schedule. But Ardmore is thinking positive and preparing to kick off the 2020-21 campaign on the road, followed by a tough few contests after that.

“I put us in a nice little gauntlet to start,” Jessie said. “We lead off with Duncan on Dec. 1 and then that same week we’re going to play Heritage Hall, who is a Class 4A power. … The following week we’re in the Norman Invitational, where we’ll play Del City who I think is the best team in the state.

“It’s just a star-studded cast of teams, so we’re definitely going to throw them into the fire,” Jessie continued. “We’re going to see how they’re going to react. The only way you can become elite is when you play against those type of teams.”

The kind of teams the Tigers could see in the state tournament, which they came one game short of making last season during an 11-13 campaign.

Jessie thinks this year’s returning nucleus gives Ardmore a good chance to make state and that will be the goal going forward.

“I knew coming into a program like this that the expectation every year is to get into the state tournament and be there every year,” he said. “We’re putting that in from the very beginning. Anything short of that is a disappointment in our eyes.”