A new era of Woodlawn High boys basketball will officially tip off Tuesday under new coach Stefson Arnold.
The Panthers open the season at Port Allen, the three-time defending Class 2A state champion, with plenty of lessons, gelling and adjustments still ahead after an abridged offseason.
But Arnold, who led Family Christian to a Class C title game in his lone season as head coach in 2020-21, wants his players focused on lofty goals despite having only been together two months thus far.
“As you know, I’m a firm believer in ‘championship or bust,'” he said. “Just coming in, it’s going to be hard to keep those goals right away, but at the same time I still expect that. What I want to do is get better every single week and every single game, continue to be better than what we were last time out and every time we leave a game the other team to be saying, ‘Man, we played really, really hard.’ If we go out there and play hard every single game, we’ll let that take us wherever it can.”
The coach said the timing of his September has led to a shifted schedule in which the Panthers have looked at their preseason scrimmages similar to typical summer league play and the opening weeks of the season similar to those typical preseason matches.
Arnold hopes to get a better sense of the expectations and potential of his players from seeing full game film of their performances against meaningful competition.
But he has been pleased with the early indicators.
“I’ve learned they’re definitely committed to what I’m asking them to do, the 5 a.m. practices, the showing up on time,” he said. “The first step is always the players buying in. It’s just going to take a little while for those guys to get really clicking and get the process going. But I’ve learned that they’re committed, and if you have a team that’s committed, eventually we’ll be able to figure things out throughout the season.”
Woodlawn returns senior guard Clayton Adams, junior guard Tyler Knox, junior wings Roy Recasner and Myron Nelson and sophomore post player Kelinee Stone among key players likely to lead the rotation to start the season.
And sophomore wings Elijah Scott and Jordan Woods are among newer faces Arnold hopes to see making significant contributions.
“This team is looking to create its identity,” the coach said. “We have some good pieces to build around and the future is bright. We will get better each game and as the season progresses. This young group of kids are determined to compete at the highest level. Under a first-year coach and a new system, this team is going to have to learn quickly and execute as planned. But the attitude is positive, the energy is there, and so is the toughness. When we bring all that together and execute, we’ll be tough for any team to handle.”