Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

April 5, 2013

Look for a different breed of Jaguar next season (in more ways than one)

Jay Neal
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Many fans of Jacksonville College men's basketball have probably been wondering around town feeling very ambivalent about the Jaguars recent season, and rightfully so.

The Jags won 20-plus game for the third straight season under the guidance of head coach Jody Bailey  and were only one win away from winning the Region XIV South Zone championship.

After being picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the South in the pre-season coaches poll, it would be accurate to say the 2012-13 Jags were overachievers.

But a loss in their first game in the Region XIV Championship Tournament early last month ended the season prematurely for the JC men and was enough to produce some major head scratching among Jag followers, wondering if the proverbial cup was half full, or half empty.

Despite plenty to be proud about, Bailey said now that he has had time to fully process things, that there is no question in his mind how this past season will be remembered.

“After a lot of reflection over the past weeks, I felt we came up short of what we had planned on,” Bailey said. “I know we played an awesome Lee (College) team that was red hot, but we expected better than to play just one game in the tournament and be done.”

Without hanging soiled laundry on the clothes line, or tossing anyone under the bus, Bailey said that his club's disappointing finish boiled down to the team's inability to do one thing.

“We had some distractions late in the season and we did not overcome those distractions like we should have,” he said. “All teams are faced with these things and many times how you handle adversity separates the men from the boys.”

Bailey considers the experience a lesson learned and the trials and tribulations something that growth can come from as he and assistant coach Bert Capel go about the arduous task of recruiting players to wear the purple and white next season.

“The first thing that we are looking for is young men that have high character and are mentally tough and that can may the right decisions in life,” Bailey said. “We've (also) got to find kids that will represent our college and its mission at all times, both on the court and off. We're looking at the total package.”

With a bevy of transfers on this past season's roster, Bailey said that it wasn't clear at this time (due to the early stage of the recruiting process) of what the make up of next season's team would be.

“Despite what some may think, we do recruit high school players,” Bailey said. “In fact two of our transfers this past year, Kennedy Eubanks and Mitchell Farr, we recruited out of high school. Kennedy decided he wanted to go to another school and Mitchell made a choice to play (NCAA) Division I ball. The reason they ended up here was that we recruited them so heavy in high school.”  

Jag fans should look forward to JC men's basketball with a tall twist next season.

That's because 7-foot-1 post Deng Leek is expected to be eligible to play, according to Bailey, giving the JC men a look that they have been void of for a while now.

“How long has it been since a 7-foot-1, 245-pound post (player) has played at Jacksonville College,” Bailey asked. “I think that we saw the most successful teams in our conference this past year all had a big guy or bigs and we did not have that.

“Having a Deng Leek is a positive in my book and I think that you will see a different Jaguar team next year and Deng will have a lot to do with that.”