Ardmore boys basketball hungry for another successful season

Beau Bearden
The Daily Ardmoreite
DD Coleman and the Tigers open the season against Newcastle at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26 at Putnam City West in Oklahoma City.

Athletes spend countless hours perfecting their skills throughout the regular season to reach the goal of playing on the biggest stage of them all.

The Ardmore High School boys basketball team was one of the final four squads remaining a season ago and the Tigers are hungry for that same success during the 2021-22 campaign.

“We gained a lot of experience last year with our run to the state semifinals,” said Tigers head coach Kyle Jessie. “Experience is the best teacher, so we’re excited for what we can accomplish. We expect big things. We’re placing a lot of expectations on them, but we feel like they can fulfill those expectations with the hard work that we put in and the camaraderie they have with each other. They went on the run together last year and felt that brotherhood. We’re ready to do it again this year.”

Ardmore is poised to live up to that goal, especially considering only two Tigers are gone from a squad that finished 12-9 and knocked off No. 2 Tulsa Memorial in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament.

That’s saying a lot, too, as Ardmore was facing an uphill climb a season ago. Not only was it Jessie’s first year at the helm, but the pandemic didn’t do the Tigers any favors.

“Going into last year, like everybody dealing with COVID, it was tough because we didn’t get a summer league together,” Jessie said. “We didn’t really get to build that relationship over the summer that you normally do. This year going to team camps and summer leagues — it’s been tremendous for our upside. We’re many more steps ahead than we were last year going in at this time.”

Ardmore will find out how far ahead it is during the season opener against Newcastle at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 26 at Putnam City West in Oklahoma City. The Tigers then host Duncan at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 30, but they have their eyes on the contest after that.

“The big one is our third game of the year when we go up to Carl Albert,” Jessie said. “They knocked us out last year in the semis. Then Douglass is a challenge that we’ll be excited for. We had a great scrimmage (earlier this month). We both got better out of it.”

Look for Ardmore to show how much it’s improved from a year ago as the Tigers are more comfortable in a system that features a long-range attack and swarming defensive pressure.

“We’re going to guard and full-court press you all game,” Jessie said. “And we have the ability to shoot the basketball. When we went on our run last year, we were averaging 10 to 12 3-pointers made a game. That’s going to be a strength this year.”

That fact isn't much of a surprise though, as Ardmore welcomes back leading scorers Dion Brown, Jordan Brown and DD Coleman.

Coleman paced the Tigers at point guard with 18 points per game, while Jordyn Brown averaged 13 points and brother Dion Brown was close behind at 12 points per contest.

And the trio is once again expected to play an important role as Ardmore battles tough competition.

“Lawton Mac was the state runner up and that’s always a good matchup,” Jessie said. “McAlester has one of the better players in the state that we look forward to playing again. Any time you play one of the Lawton schools, you know you’re going to play teams that are going to get after you physically and be athletic. We feel like our core schedule plus tournaments will hopefully shape our run to the state tournament.”

That goal is obviously important to all teams, but Jessie isn't putting all of his focus on that. He knows his job involves more than just coaching fundamentals on the court.

“I want to just keep building those relationships with the kids,” Jessie said. “I’m a big, firm believer that X’s and O’s are important, but the relationships you build with the kids help make them play hard. My job is to bring out the very best in them and I look forward to that challenge — of night in and night out, bringing out the very best in these young men.”