Athletes adjust to basketball

Published 12:09 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cathedral’s Khalil Brice warms up before their game against ACCS at the Garcia Memorial Gymnasium Tuesday night. Brice is one of nine Cathedral players going straight from football to basketball in less than a week. (Eric Shelton \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Khalil Brice may be known by his teammates for joking around a lot, but his adjustment from football to basketball is no laughing matter.

Brice, along with eight of his 16 teammates, is less than a week removed from their final playoff game in football. Now that football season is over, they have to adjust to a much different game — and quickly.

“There’s a big difference between running on the football field for a few plays versus running around back and forth constantly,” Brice said.

Prior to Tuesday’s game against ACCS, the Green Wave boys were winless so far this season. And since several of those games were played without the football players while Cathedral remained in postseason contention, winning was that much harder.

“It’s hard to see (the basketball team lose) while you’re playing football,” teammate Ishmael Blackmon said. “If the football players were here, we’d have won more games, but since we’re back, we should do pretty well.”

But adjusting to the game of basketball right after football season is very difficult, Brice and Blackmon said, especially in less than a week. And right now, all of the football players are going through it.

“On our first game Monday (against Salem), I was tired after just two minutes, because we had just played a football game the Friday before,” Brice said.

Blackmon said he’s had similar experiences since coming over from football.

“It’s difficult to adjust,” Blackmon said. “In the first game (against Salem), I was tired. Against ACCS, I felt better, but it’s still difficult.”

Cathedral boys head coach Peter Arnold said being in basketball shape requires a different type of conditioning than being in football shape. And the only way to really get into basketball shape is to play in games, instead of just practicing a lot.

“Truthfully, for football, you get bulked up, and sometimes you’re not as open as you can be,” Arnold said. “You have to get acclimated to continuous movement in basketball. It’s all about loosening up and getting more flexible.”

After a heartbreaking loss to Noxapater High School last Friday in football, Brice said the players also had to get past the sting of coming up short of a state title.

“For most of the guys, it hurt, but you have to move on,” Brice said. “There’s nothing we can do about it now. We have to try to focus on basketball and win in basketball. That will help take away some of the pain.”

Not all of Cathedral’s football players are adjusting to basketball. Green Wave senior running back Jadarius Ealey will keep playing under the lights at Devereaux Stadium, but as a soccer player instead of a football player.

“(Today) is my first day. I needed a break after football was over,” Ealey said.

But that adjustment is probably easier than if he were adjusting to basketball, Ealey said.

“The biggest adjustment is probably the weather,” Ealey said. “It’s colder during soccer. It’s cold for football when you’re in the playoffs, but for most of the season, it’s pretty warm.

“I played both ways in football, so the adjustment shouldn’t be difficult, since I never really caught a break while playing.”

Cathedral isn’t the only basketball team that had to wait for football season to end. Trinity’s boy recently started playing after being eliminated from the playoff two weeks ago.

Head coach David King coaches both football and basketball, and he said it’s an adjustment he’s used to making.

“I’ve been doing it for 14 years,” King said. “It’s just what I do. It’s a lot nicer when you win a state championship. I hate to end (football season) on a loss, but 11 wins and moving up a class (is good).

“It was a tough pill to swallow but you have to pick yourself up. I gave myself a week off, and I’m ready for basketball.”

But King said he doesn’t favor one sport over the other.

“I enjoy basketball, really,” King said. “I like it just as much as football, I’m just not as good (at coaching basketball).

“I don’t think having me as a coach in both sports is good for the players. They are tired of listening to me,” King joked.