Darlington gears up for another year of basketball
By Drake Horton
Darlington Falcons: A preview
Last year head coach Anthony Heilbronn could not have asked for a better start to his head coaching career at Darlington High School. While the season did not end with a state championship, the Falcons did make it to the lower-state and won over 20 games.
That team Heilbronn inherited from longtime coach Ken Howle was filled with an abundance of veteran talent. Fast forward to this year, that experience is no longer there. Instead, he has what might be one of the youngest teams in the state.
“Of my top 11 guys last year, I lost nine; six graduated, one transferred, one got hurt and one chose not to play,” Heilbronn said. “We brought back two starters and two guys that never really saw the court so we got a combination of JV guys, freshmen and an eighth-grader. We’re young, but the potential is there. We saw it last week; we won the Turkey Shootout. That was a surprise to us.”
And while this team is already off to a strong start in the very early stages of the season, the identity of this team is far different from the cast of players that Darlington had last season.
“We are not last year’s team; we are not going to win pretty, by 20, 30 points a night,” Heilbronn said. “We are going to have to grind it out, fight it and do what we can, take each win as they come.”
So how is Darlington going grind it out, create offense? First it will start and end with using defense to get out in transition.
“We are going to have to generate some in transition,” Heilbronn said. “We are quick defensively; we can get out and run, create transition, hit Tre’Quan in a trail or get him leading a play. We don’t have players that can go one on one like Keynon, Ty.”
This year’s Darlington team, like so many from years past, is small when it comes to height, but fast when it comes to team speed.
Heilbronn, like last season, wants to exploit other teams with that speed, using it as a way to counter the Falcons’ lack of size.
“I want to run as much as possible so our lack of size doesn’t hurt us,” Heilbronn said. “In a half court set we’re going to struggle.”
With so many new pieces it’s obvious Darlington is not expected to win the region.
“Myrtle Beach is the odds-on favorite,” Heilbronn said. “They brought back almost everybody and they had a really good JV team. They’re deep; they’ll go 10 or 11 deep. Marlboro County was preseason pick to win the region, which surprised me. They don’t have a lot of depth; their front five is legit.”
But just because they are young does not mean they are not talented.
This team has plenty of talent and this season is all about getting that talent some experience. Once the experience is gained, the sky is the limit.
“Our thing is we’re young, let’s get them experience, get reps and see what happens,” Heilbronn said.
“We know this year we’re not expected to be final four. Whatever we do is a bonus.”
Darlington Lady Falcons: A preview
Darlington girls’ basketball head coach Brad Knox has been building his Lady Falcons for the last few years and this year might be the year that he is finally able to get to host a home playoff game.
There are some returning players to go along with new talent and Knox likes what he has building in his program. Over the off season, the focus was simple and that was work on “skill development.”
Apart from working on skill development, Knox really likes how this team works together and trusts each other. According to him that is one of the biggest differences between this year’s and last year’s team.
“What I like about this team is they gel together,” Knox said. “Coming to practice they come in smiling and ready to work and I think that is the difference between this year’s team and last year’s team.”
As it stands, most think Darlington will finish third in the region this year. “Right now, they got us sitting at third behind a good Wilson team and a good North Myrtle Beach team,” Knox said. “Our region is tough; we have one of the toughest regions in the state of South Carolina in 4A basketball.”
But that prediction is not deterring Knox or his team. He believes in his team and knows if they work hard they can beat anyone.
“Every night anyone can get beat,” Knox said. “We are just trying to get better every game, every possession. That is our whole objective of the season.”