First-year Shallowater head boys basketball coach Jay Lusk knows some may think he’s crazy for having senior forward Jaleel Campbell come off the bench instead of starting.
But the plan has been working so far for the Mustangs, and Lusk isn’t about to mess with that.
“We’ve played so well I don’t want to mix anything up,” Lusk said. “(Campbell) has been such a great leader for us, and he comes in and plays hard. He just comes off the bench with his hustling after loose balls and his rebounding. He’s a lot more physical than he was last year.”
And, a lot more effective as well, especially as the Mustangs’ sixth man. His play off the bench helped spark a couple of victories for Shallowater last week, one to end non-district play and the other to get the Mustangs off on the right foot in District 2-3A action.
He scored 16 points in a win over Bushland, then added 15 in a win over Andrews to begin league play, numbers good enough to earn the honor as this week’s Happy State Bank/Avalanche-Journal Male Athlete of the Week for games played June 7-11.
“I’m just trying to help get the team going coming off the bench,” Campbell said. “I want to put us in a position as much as I can to help the team win. Those two games were big for me, making free throws in the clutch and playing aggressive and just doing what coach tells me to do.”
It took awhile for Campbell, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior, to round into basketball shape after playing a key role on the Mustangs district championship football team. His biggest challenge, Campbell said, was getting into basketball shape.
“Football’s not any help at all there,” Campbell said.
Lusk said he expected to start Campbell once he was up to speed and in basketball shape. But in the meantime, Lusk was able to find the right chemistry with the non-basketball-playing roster and was skeptical about doing anything to disrupt that chemistry.
So, he’s left Campbell on the bench, and it has made the Mustangs that much stronger, going 12-5 entering district play.
“I think football helped him out being able to come in and be physical and going after loose balls,” Lusk said. “It starts with kids like him coming out and hustling and doing the right things and the things we ask of them.”
For Campbell, the concern isn’t about starting, it’s about finishing — finishing the season with a district championship and a playoff berth after two seasons with neither.
“None of us like losing at all,” Campbell said. “Having lost in district the last two years has not gone well with us. We’re all tired of losing and I want to help end that deal, too.”
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