After a 6-24 finish last season, no one would blame Minden head coach Rennie Bailey for having low expectations heading into this year.
But Bailey is a Tide alum, a prideful coach who has led teams at the highest level and returned to his alma mater to turn around a storied program in desperate need of change.
This season has seen some ups and downs, but with eight wins before Christmas, Minden’s season has already surpassed last year’s as well as expectations of people in the area.
Most importantly, it’s shown that it is not going to be a fluke.
Minden has two seniors on their roster, and both of them are vital to the Tide’s success. Cedric Emerson is a solid scorer and defender, a quiet leader and someone who can handle the ball in crunch time. Zi Crawford is finally getting his basketball legs back underneath him after earning All-Parish honors as a defensive back for the Tide’s football team. Crawford has steadily improved his scoring and made a statement in the Holiday Classic as a top-notch athlete.
Most intriguing, to me, is the development of the younger talent.
I’ve said before that Bailey’s strength is in developing players, and it’s already evident this season in contributions from unexpected places.
Juniors Kendrick Crawford and D’Marqueus Gill have led the frontcourt this season for Minden and are learning how to cement themselves as fundamentally sound players. Big guys who can rebound, defend without fouling and set hard screens are hard to come by these days. But Bailey has those two playing well, and they are only going to get better.
Junior Kiernan Combs has shown the ability to score the ball, and Chance Mitchell is a hard-nosed defender who is also developing into a good offensive player.
The prized underclassman is certainly Curtis Carter. As Carter develops into more than just a shooter, he will understand his potential. He’s already showing flashes of high-level playmaking. He will be the most important player for Minden going forward, if he can figure out how to make his teammates better while still getting the shots he needs.
Having only two seniors means that learning how to win close games will be an issue this season. We’ve already seen it in close losses to Lakeside and Parkway.
The other side of that coin is that Minden has a chance to learn from those games, as well as the big boys in their district.
Bossier is the number-1 team in the state, Woodlawn is fourth and Huntington is eighth according to the LHSAA power ratings. When Minden gets to play against teams like Bossier, they should take notes. The Bearkats have established themselves as a program with a winning culture that remains regardless of who suits up for them. They showcase their talent by sharing the ball, playing together and getting after you on defense. Each year, student-athletes from that program are recruited nationally because they are always a powerhouse team, and their players always look good.
Bailey is trying to build something similar.
If the players continue to buy in, there’s no telling what could happen.