By Mike Phillips
Corsicana Daily Sun
A new coach, new attitude and a new star are just part of the recipe at Wortham, where the Bulldogs have surprised everyone but themselves this season.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised by our success,’’ said first-year coach Brian Coffman, whose kids have already won as many district games this season as they did all of last year. “But I think a lot of people around here are surprised. They probably thought, same team, same kind of season.’’
“Being from this area in Hubbard and Corsicana I’ve watched these kids grow up playing ball, Coffman said. “I knew they had talent. It was just a matter of when someone would come along and push them and put them in the right spot and getting them to do the right thing. I think they were just waiting for someone to come along and push them.
“I’m not surprised by our success,’’ he said. “I’m just a little surprised how quick they picked it up and moved ahead.
Wortham had problems a year ago and finished 13-19 for the season and just 4-6 in the district race, but this new version of Bulldogs are not only 4-0 in the District 18-1A DI race, but can wrap up the first half of the district schedule at a perfect 5-0 with a win Friday night at Hubbard.
That won’t be easy. Hubbard (2-2) is not only talented and trying to climb into the playoff hunt (only three teams advance to the postseason), but the Hubbard kids know Coffman well. He coached there for three years before going to Italy last year and then coming to Wortham.
“I knew the seniors from eighth grade through their sophomore year and they had one of the best JV teams in the area when I was there.’’ Coffman said. “I think they may have a little more motivation to beat me and my team. But my players know how important the game is.’’
The Bulldogs are 16-7 overall and own a huge win over defending district champ Kerens. They beat the Bobcats, who have owned the district race for years, 52-50, in the district opener. Now they face a brutal two-game stretch. They’re at Hubbard on Friday and at Kerens on Tuesday.
No one has to say much.
“We don’t talk about (the Kerens game),’’ Coffman said. “We look at it one game at a time. But I know the kids know what the schedule says and what looms ahead. I know they know that Tuesday we go to Kerens.’’
This season could have been a disaster. Wortham returned everyone, but before the season started the Bulldogs lost two of their best players, who are out for academic reasons.
They didn’t let the those losses faze them. In fact, it changed the dynamic of the team.
Le’Dhareus Freeman, a 5-9 junior guard, was a role player a year ago. Now he is leading the team in scoring with an 18-point average and has had some monster games. He averaged 31 points over three games in the Frost Tournament and is averaging almost six 3-pointers a night.
“We had a couple of good players who aren’t with the team this year,’’ Coffman said. “Those two not being here has allowed him (Freeman) to shine. Without them here he has been able to become the player he is now.’’
But Wortham is anything but one dimensional.
While Freeman has been filling it up from the outside, Wortham’s big men, Kyle Chasteen and Daniel Trantham have been a force inside. Chasteen is averaging a double-double for the season, dropping in 16 points and grabbing 12 boards a game. Trantham, a 6-7 junior, is averaging six points a game and dominating the boards, averaging 15 rebounds a night.
But Coffman says the biggest reason this team has won is in its makeup.
“We have a really good team core and this team is unselfish,’’ he said. “There’s not a selfish player on this team. That’s what’s pushed us. That’s what got us past Kerens. No one is holding the ball and looking for their shot.
“Le’Dhareus can shoot, but he also drives the lane and he dishes the ball off. No one is thinking about how many points I have. They share the ball.
“It’s a great team dynamic. They believe in each other.’’
And they’re making everyone else believe, too.