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Boys basketball: Roosevelt trying to turn the program around

Roosevelt's Kentrell Lee drives baseline is fouled by Attucks' Dominick Sultzer The Genesis Center November 30 2013. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times

Roosevelt's Kentrell Lee drives the baseline and is fouled by Attucks' Dominick Sultzer at The Genesis Center on November 30, 2013. | Jim Karczewski\Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 12, 2014 9:21PM



Marcus Jefferson expected a challenge when he was hired as Roosevelt’s third boys basketball coach in as many seasons.

The job hasn’t disappointed in that regard.

While Roosevelt (5-4) has already more than doubled its win total from last season (two), restoring the tradition of the program is a long ways off. Most frustrating for Jefferson isn’t a lack of talent.

“I’m going to continue to reiterate this — it starts in practice,” Jefferson said.

To be more precise, it begins with showing up to practice. On multiple occasions, Jefferson has been without players for a practice. Not because of an academic commitment, or medical issue, but instead because they simply just don’t feel like going.

“It’s hard to run a team when everybody is not there,” said junior Darius Bates, a West Side transfer. “We work hard but we have got to commit. We have to buy into what coach is saying and not everybody is buying into what he’s saying.”

Jefferson seemed hesitant to label anyone on the team as consistently doing what they should be to build a winning program.

“I’m just trying to find leadership in the lockerroom with these guys,” Jefferson said. “I’m just trying to get them to buy into playing the game a certain way. I can’t say anything has been consistent thus far. Everything has been on the fly, from preparation to everything. We’re trying to make the most of it and put the pieces together.”

Roosevelt has hampered itself with turnover issues all season. The Panthers beat Indianapolis Marshall, 84-75, in overtime back on Dec. 23 despite committing more than 30 turnovers.

It’s a byproduct of not consistently having a full team in practice, while those turnover issues then have led to trust issues.

“I really think once these guys become better teammates with each other, we’ll be a force to be reckoned with,” Jefferson said. “Some guys feel other guys are turnover prone, so they’re not comfortable passing them the ball, which has happened a lot.”

Roosevelt has size on its roster, with eight players at least 6-foot-3, including 6-8 sophomore Tevin Ferris, who had a double-double in that victory over Marshall.

“He changes the game in so many aspects,” Jefferson said. “I have to find a way to get him the ball so he can score, and make sure his production is high. In the first half he’ll come out, block some shots, rebound ... but there are times he can get stagnated on offense and not get touches, then his rebounds and blocked shots fall off. But I have great expectations for that kid.”

Against Marshall, Jefferson altered his approach to coaching.

“I wasn’t going to stand up, holler and yell because I want these guys to work the kinks out,” Jefferson said. “I rarely called time outs. These guys have to grow up, and play this game, play it out, and if you have a bad spurt, play through it.”

Jefferson isn’t going to scoff at being 5-4 thus far, but isn’t ready to celebrate, either.

“It’s not bad for us right now,” he said, “but personally, I set the bar a little bit higher than that.”



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