Young basketball players can bring excitement and energy to complement veteran players.
The problem for Douglass High basketball coach Lynn Allen is that he doesn’t have many veterans.
Allen has six players on the team, and only one, senior Simon Hall-Shavers, who played significant minutes last season.
“We haven’t come together yet,” Allen said. “We’re almost more of a JV team because we’re so young.”
Complicating the youth problem, Allen said, is that Douglass doesn’t have an experienced leader. The Bulldogs lost four seniors after an 18-7 season last spring.
“We’re trying to get that out of them right now,” Allen said. “We don’t have a guy that’s willing to step forward right now and take that leadership role. We don’t have that right now, and that’s what we’re really lacking. That’s so hard to develop.”
Hall-Shavers said he’s looking at his seniority as an opportunity.
“Last year, we had four seniors, so I was like the fifth man,” he said. “This year, I guess I have to really step up.”
Despite Hall-Shaver’s best efforts, the youth on the team has shown in the season’s first four games. The Bulldogs are 1-3, including a loss to Yeshiva High of St. Louis.
“We had them on our schedule because I thought we were going to kill them, but we just didn’t score,” Allen said.
Junior Aaron Camp is the only other Douglass player who saw any playing time last season. “Sometimes you got to take (younger players) over to the side and let them know what’s happening,” Camp said. “Sometimes they get frustrated in the games and you’ve got to let them know that it’s just a game, and they’ve got to focus. (Simon and I) try to work together and pump the team up.”
Allen said that although neither Hall-Shavers nor Camp has emerged as a great leader, both have been able to lead the inexperienced players by example.
“Simon and Aaron have had a good work ethic, as far as doing things right,” Allen said.
One of the seniors who graduated last year was Anthony Johnson. He is playing basketball at Lewis and Clark Community College in Godfrey, Ill., near St. Louis.
Tonight, the current Douglass team will play St. Louis Logos at 4 p.m. in St. Louis and then go to the Edward Jones Dome to see their old teammate in a game.
Of course, more than half of the players on Douglass’ roster didn’t play with Johnson, even though he graduated last year. This is another example of the Bulldogs’ youth.
“It’s just a growing process,” Allen said. “A lot of these guys just haven’t played before in organized basketball.”
Allen continually must work against teams with deeper rosters. Help might be on the way in the form of students who could be academically eligible to play in January, but until then, all six players on the Douglass roster will play significant minutes. That includes two freshmen, point guard Landon Boone and Anthony Johnson (no relation to the 2004 graduate).
Johnson said having young players is an advantage for the Bulldogs.
“It’s fun because we’ve still got four years left,” he said. “So if we beat another team, a bigger school, we know we’re getting better.”
For Allen, a young team means a bright future for a Douglass program that has seen success in the past despite a total enrollment of 190.
“We’re going to be pretty doggone good in a couple of years,” Allen said. “But Simon’s not interested in how good we’ll be next year.”
Sure enough, Hall-Shavers knows this is his last chance.
“Right now, I just care about how my senior year will go,” he said. “If I step it up, it will go well.”