Improving Titans jump into district play

Published 4:56 pm Thursday, January 12, 2012

It’s still a learning process for the Port Arthur Memorial Titans. First-year head coach Travis Williams is learning what he has in a very young team and the players are learning his system and coaching style.

Williams is hoping that learning curve has been accelerated at this point in the season, because whether the Titans are ready or not, District 21-5A play kicks off Friday when Memorial travels to North Shore.

“We have to be ready,” Williams said. “With this team, every win is big. It doesn’t get any easier going to North Shore. I think our kids are going be relaxed and, hopefully, play hard. When district starts, we’ve got to hit layups and get rebounds.”

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The Titans have been showing signs of playing better lately. After opening the season 4-8, Memorial has only dropped one game in its last seven and takes a winning record at 10-9 into district play. The Titans have beat some good teams this season, but still need to work on aspects of Williams’ philosophy.

Memorial was helped out at the end of the football season, adding four players to Williams’ rotation. Seniors Tre’von Armstead and Aerian Jackson provide a big defensive presence, as Armstead helps guard the middle of the Titan defense.

Jackson, too, is a big part of that defense for his relentlessness. Against West Orange-Stark on Monday, Jackson harried his man into giving up the ball six times. Many times, it appeared Jackson just reached in and swiped the ball out without the Mustang player having a chance to block him.

“He did some nice things defensively,” Williams said. “He is (relentless). He plays hard, which is all I can ask of a player. He gets after it defensively. Sometimes, he gets a little out of control, but he is a nice player.”

Aside from the two seniors, Memorial gets young in a hurry. The other two football players are sophomores Albert Jacobs and Roderic Rucker. They join sophomore Torian Lott, freshman Dorian Chatman and sophomore TreVaughn Dennis in a young rotation for Williams.

“We’re young,” Williams said. “In hindsight, you’re supposed to say they’re going to make mistakes. When you’re out there coaching, in the back of your mind, you don’t want those mistakes. At this time, even though they’re young, we’ve been through (19) ballgames. It’s not the first game of the year. Now, it’s time to grow up.”

Chatman and Armstead have the size to make an imposing front line for the Titans, but both need to work on improving their defensive efforts, according to Williams.

“Our bigs have to get better,” Williams said. “I had to sit a senior (Monday) and go with a freshman, because the senior wasn’t giving us what we needed defensively. They just have to get the wrath of me. I busted everybody down this year.”

The road in district will be tough at first. Memorial has to play three of its first four games on the road against North Shore, Channelview and La Porte. But, the Titans catch a break in the middle of district play with Baytown Sterling, Channelview and North Shore all at home.

Even as the Titans have struggled this season, they’ve got a good shot at getting into the playoffs. Of the other five teams in 21-5A, three are currently under .500 (Sterling, West Brook and La Porte).

The class of the district early seems to be North Shore (20-3). The Mustangs, led by head coach David Green, whose son is a senior at Beaumont Ozen, are ranked No. 16 in the state by the TABC. North Shore is led by 6-foot-8 junior power forward Jonathan Motley and 6-foot-5 senior forward Ulyssius McGee.

Williams may be still tinkering with his team, but he has to be pleased with how the Titans are entering district play. Lott hit his second game-winning 3-pointer of the season to beat WO-S Monday. The sophomore may not have much varsity experience, but he’s quickly catching on to what he and his teammates will need to do if they want to make it back into the playoffs this season.

“If we want to get back to the playoffs, we have to play four quarters,” Williams said. “They say the future looks bright. I hope it looks bright. Our district is tough. Between North Shore, West Brook, Channelview, we have capitalize on every possession.”