Trojan boys remain focused on winning
The Wesleyan Christian boys aren’t concerned about the talk surrounding the program — and there is a lot of talk. Instead, they’re just looking to play well every possession of every game.
“We just have to get better and play one game at a time,” coach Keith Gatlin said. “We have to stay focused, stay hungry and humble and take it one game at a time.”
That may sound easy, but it could be difficult to do for the Trojans, ranked No. in the season’s first NCISAA 3A poll. It’s easy to get excited about late February when you have one of the best teams with several of the best players in the state, if not the country. But the state playoffs are a long way off.
“That’s the biggest challenge for us,” said Gatlin, whose team returns nine players, including three starters from last year. “We have to keep the intensity level up every night because we know everyone’s trying to beat us.”
Last year, Wesleyan, led by senior Montay Brandon (now at Florida State), went 22-9 and reached the second round of the state playoffs before losing to eventual champion Greensboro Day. Given the talent of that team certainly capable of winning the state title, that was perhaps an early exit.
So, this year, the Trojans are still motivated to achieve their highest goals. But, for them, that simply means working hard now and letting that accumulate over the course of the season — and hopefully ending up in the playoffs and, ultimately, a state championship.
“You learn by going through it,” Gatlin said. “We were too young last year. We were playing three sophomores and the guys didn’t understand the pressure. ... We have to stay in the moment, stay a close-knit group and not let the outside stuff affect us.”
Returning to lead Wesleyan are juniors JaQuel Richmond, Theo Pinson, Deshaunte Carelock and senior Trey Chapman (who has signed with VMI). Pinson has received considerable attention from some of the country’s top college programs, while Richmond and Carelock have gotten their fair share too.
Add in players like transfer Donovan Gilmore and talented freshman Harry Giles and the Trojans appear poised again for another strong season. The biggest keys to helping this year’s team go even further, Gatlin said, are added size and depth, which give them an added dimension to succeed with a very challenging schedule.
“We didn’t have size last year, particularly inside,” Gatlin said. “So, we’ll have more size and depth this year. And that helps a whole lot. You can’t just have five players play the whole game. So, you have to have a bench.”