Morris Wright has the ball at the top of the key. His eyes never waver from the cylinder.Once he catches the ball, his movements are like clockwork—the ball starts at his waist, then to his chest, and then over hishead, all while he’s leaving the ground. Simultaneous to jumping, he’s releasing. The basketball rotates perfectly towards the net. He lands, and his left hand drifts towards his waist while the right one is left hanging in the air. The only difference between now and Oct. 30 is that Wright is practicing.
A 3-0 start by the Gold Rush men’s basketball team is not by accident. It’s the result of a perfectly scripted practice led by head coach Dannton Jackson and featuring a roster of 13 talented players.
Seven out of 9 of the Gold Rush players are averaging over five points per game. Jackson stated that having Martin-Julien back on the team would be great, and, he’s doing well by averaging the second most points on the team with 13.5. Wright leads the team averaging 17.7. Charles Savoy and Gary Smith run down the court on a fast break. Savoy is a few steps in front of Smith, who has the ball under complete control in his hands. Savoy stops underneath the Gold Rush goal with three defenders in pursuit. Smith threads the needle on the pass, bouncing it between two defenders and into Savoy’s hands, who makes the shot and gives Smith the assist. It happened at practice, and it happened against Springhill College Nov. 7. Smith is leading the team with 4.7 assists per game, with Martin-Julien (4) and Wright (3.7) right behind. However, it isn’t offense that wins championships.
Elex Carter, the 6’7 transfer from Southern University, jumps. He starts from the top of his toes and bounces upward, long arms reaching for the sky. His hands are visible over the just-as-tall defenders. He taps the ball upward with the tips of his fingers as he lands. He springs forward again, and this time he has the ball in his hands. He lands right leg first, ball tucked into his side away from his defenders as he patiently awaits a Gold Rush guard to take it down court. He had four rebounds against Webber International,eight against Carver, and countless in practice. Thirty seconds of high energy defense means nothing f they can’t get the ball back on the offensive end. In three games, the Rush are out rebounding their opponents 107- 96. Carter is leading the Rush with six per game. Thibodeaux follows with 4.3 per game.
Listed at 6’4, RJ Daniels is a quick on his toes, hustling power forward with tenacious energy on the defensive end. As the ball swings around the top of the key, Daniels runs up on the offensive player. He’s standing between the ball and the player, and he’s on the top of his toes. “Close!” he shouts, arms wide. You could put Gold Rush point guard Smith as the offensive player or Webber International power forward Dwaine Lyals and you’ll get the same result: a steal.
The Gold Rush are a team that prides themselves on being defensive minded, according to Jackson. It should come as no surprise to fans that eight of the 13 players on the roster are
averaging .5 steals per game or over, with Wright and Smith leading the Rush with 3.0 steals
(Wright) and 1.5 (Smith). When the Gold Rush aren’t stealing the ball, they’re making it harder on defenses. Quick hands, long arms, and sharp defense caused Webber International and Springhill to turn the ball over 18 times to the Gold Rush and Carver College to turn it over 16. Steals, knock-aways, and disruptions come at the encouragement of Jackson. At practice, he reminds his players, “Hands up,” and during the game, he can be seen on the
sidelines, arms spread wide, reminding them to keep their arms up over the noisy crowd.
Although the Gold Rush have been successful through their first three games, they still have a full season ahead of them—which means more practice, more time to get better,
and more highlight plays for fans.
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