New-look Panthers ready for season

Published 2:06 pm Friday, November 28, 2014

DAVID CUCCHIARA | DAILY NEWS PROTECT THE PAINT: Junior Edrice “Bam-Bam” Adebayo averaged close to 25 points per game last season and will need to assume even more of a scoring role this season.

PROTECT THE PAINT: Junior Edrice “Bam-Bam” Adebayo averaged close to 25 points per game last season and will need to assume even more of a scoring role this season.

PINETOWN — Short. Scrappy. Undersized. To anyone familiar with the Northside basketball program, they’re words that come with a hint of sarcasm, words that last year would have been completely unfitting for a team that finished 21-5, competing in one of the toughest Class 1-A conferences in the region.

But this season, even with their 6-foot-10, five-star prospect, Edrice “Bam-Bam” Adebayo, the Panthers enter uncharted waters, sporting one of the shortest rosters in the Coastal Plains Conference.

Adebayo aside, head coach Mike Proctor will have to find a way to replace four starters, including Antonio Woods, the team’s second-leading scorer at a 12.2 point per game clip. However, while having to change the team’s offensive and defensive philosophy due to the lack of size, Proctor isn’t using the word “replace.” Rather, he’s looking towards a collection of guards to work together in a revamped system.

“I know this is going to sound crazy, but we’re just small,” Proctor said. “We’re working hard and shooting a whole lot of jump shots because we feel that’s what we needed to work on last year. We didn’t make enough jump shots.”

A philosophy straight out of conference opponent and growing rival East Carteret’s book, Northside will be forced to employ a four-guard set, one that has actually had some success among other area teams. The Mariners, for example, rode their perimeter shooting and transition offense all the way to the state championship last season. It’s unconventional and four guards will undoubtedly look goofy surrounding Adebayo, but there’s no reason the Panthers can’t build on last season’s success.

Returning for the Panthers is Greene Ikeem, who averaged 4.6 points last season and played in all 26 games, and Reggie Slade, who Proctor expects to be the primary floor leader.

Also joining the Panthers this season is senior Dalton Etheridge, who transferred over from Pungo this summer. Averaging 8.5 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists, Etheridge was an integral piece to the Raiders’ 19-5 finish last year. For a team that’s shifting from a post to press defense, Etheridge will likely find his place in the No. 4 slot in the starting five.

We played a 2-1-2-type zone last year,” Proctor said. “We’re going to try to go more man-to-man this year with our little guys to put more pressure on the ball and things of that nature. “Bam” will be in there to protect the paint and take care of things. He’s always been a game changer on the defensive end. Always.”

Regardless of the new faces, it’s no secret this team will live and die by the play of Adebayo down the stretch. The young man they call “Bam” has improved in each of his two years at Northside. And so far, Proctor doesn’t see that trend changing any time soon.

“He’s going to be a good player and I’m hoping he’ll take more of a role, but I’m hoping we can hit some jump shots to help him out, so they don’t collapse three guys around him. But he is definitely going to take more of an offensive-minded role than he has in the past,” Proctor said.

Adebayo, last year’s Washington Daily News Men’s Basketball Player-of-the-Year, put up video game-like numbers, averaging 24.3 points, 18.2 rebounds and 4.1 blocks per game.

Adebayo and the Panthers will have two tough out-of-conference tests to open the season. On Wednesday, Dec. 3, they face the Pam Pack at Washington, a team Proctor never underestimates, even despite recent struggles.

“Everybody always thinks they’re down, but Washington is always good,” he said. “They’ve got good guard play. They’ll give our guards a test because they haven’t been in that situation before.”

Two days later, the Panthers will host Dixon in the home opener in what should be another test for the guards. The Bulldogs have five players on the roster taller than 6-foot-2, including senior center Trent Marshburn, who maxes out at 6-foot-8.

With a new starting lineup, undersized roster and new scheme, Northside has a tough road ahead, especially with the likes of East Carteret, Pamlico County and Southside waiting down the line.