Leading the charge: Seniors take to the court one last time
There are only three seniors on the Panther basketball team this year. None of them took the basketball world by storm nearly four years ago when they walked into the gym as freshmen, but they are on the verge of leading their team to the top of Texas 4A basketball.
“These three guys, all of them have their own story but they have accomplished so much,” Boren said, thinking back to watching Jareck Naylor, Parker McCurdy and Cade Cole play in eighth grade.
When they began their high school basketball careers, Boren remembers they had a lot stacked against them.
“Parker (McCurdy) was too little. I mean, he could shoot it but he couldn’t create his own shot,” Boren said. “Jareck (Naylor) was not a very physical presence and Cade Cole was just tiny.”
But they went to work on the long journey of making their special mark on the Panther basketball program, beginning with a district championship while playing on the freshman team.
“Then as sophomores the JV went 26-2,” Boren said of the trio as they grew in to their roles.
Their junior year, Naylor and Cole began the season on the junior varsity team.
But fast-forward to last weekend and these three seniors and team leaders were celebrating two wins that earned them a state tournament spot.
“We never gave up, we just pushed through it,” Cole said. “Every second of the game we fought hard. We wanted to get to state and it was just a matter of wanting it. We wanted it more.”
That has been the case all year as the Panthers built a 33-6 record, and that determination grew stronger once the playoffs began and each game could mark the end of their basketball careers.
“We have gone out for every game fighting as hard as we can because we know it could be our last game,” McCurdy said. “We want to keep playing and playing so we just go out and fight.”
The three seniors will be the first to admit it has been a whole team effort this year, but Boren has seen amazing transformations in them.
“This season what’s happened is Parker’s defensive capabilities have overshadowed his offense and that is a complete flip of the script,” Boren said. “Cade has grown to be 6’2” or 6’3” and we played him out of position at the post early this season because we were waiting on the football guys. Jareck, once he devoted all his time to basketball, has gotten considerably better.”
Cole impressed Boren so much with his growth and leadership that he was named Team Captain this year.
“He has just grown into a warrior,” Boren said of Cole. “He’s very much a late bloomer. He played on our JV a good part of the season last year, but he is our Captain on this year’s team and that’s how much I think of him. He’s a tremendous kid.”
The growth on the court is evident over these four years, but the most impressive thing Boren has seen is how they’ve grown in life.
“As I told their parents, they’ve really developed as basketball players, but I think the difference maker is how much they’ve developed as young men because they’re all vocal leaders and about who they are and what they’re doing. They’re a good example for the younger guys and honestly that’s what we’re going to miss from them.
“They’re all about basketball,” he said. “They show people you get better by putting in time. We’re going to miss them.”