After spending the past few weeks getting into winter form, the Mount Zion High School boys' basketball team has already shown signs of being one of the more high-tempo ballclubs in the area.
Nine games into the 2017-18 season, the Eagles have shown an ability to score early and often, averaging 75.2 points per game.
Playing with flow and taking big advantage shots is exactly the type of style that first-year head coach Tyler Wright wants to see his team display on the court night-in and night-out.
"Ball movement, player movement, scoring in transition and pitching ahead are just a few aspects that we focus on in practice," Wright said. "We really stress those things every single day and they're just now starting to execute those things on game day."
MZ (5-4, 1-1 Region 6-A) had a later rollout of the season than most other teams in the area with several of its players helping the football team reach the Class A Public state semifinals earlier this month.
As a result, Wright and his players had to hustle by cramming in nine games in a 17-day span. While it was a somewhat tiring way to start a season, the Eagles accepted the challenge and did the best that they could with it.
"It was a struggle, but it is what it is and there's nothing that we can do about it," Wright said. "All we can do is control what we do each and every day."
But it definitely helps when a team returns a core of players who have established a rapport with each other across all sports.
The two seniors leading the way for the Eagles this season are sharp-shooter T.J. Cagle and guard C.J. Ackles. Supplementing the two seniors are the likes of juniors Tyriese Farley and the high-flying Iaan "Mike Mike" Cousin.
Wright, who is also pulling double-duty as the head girls' basketball coach this year, fully expects that veteran presence to be a boon for his team come February.
"Our top guys have tons of experience on the varsity level and that's huge. You can't simulate that in practice or even summer time," Wright said. "They're doing a good job of also helping out the kids that don't have as much varsity experience. We have a few kids that haven't played as much varsity ball in the rotation and they're also getting better."
The Eagles enjoyed a week-long break for Christmas before hitting the courts again this afternoon when it travels to Model. The results have been mixed from game to game in the early stages of the season, but the young head coach is confident everything will be straightened out as the season moves forward into January and February.
"We've let a few slip where we didn't play up to our potential, but I felt like we've been playing better with each game," Wright said. "It's been a fight to get into gear, but I think that we'll get clicking sooner than later."