E.A. Sports Today

A new role

Valley Cubs looking for Dodd to ‘expand his personality,’ become a more vocal leader in his senior season

Alexandria’s Dalton Dodd goes hard to the basket in Wednesday’s camp game against Ranburne. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

Dalton Dodd has grown into the kind of leader Alexandria basketball coach Jason Johnson has come to count on whenever the team hits the court. Now, the Valley Cubs are asking the 6-foot-7 senior forward to grow into another kind of leader that won’t come so naturally to him.

Johnson is looking for Dodd to “expand his personality” this season and become a more vocal leader than he ever was as an underclassman.

“We’re really counting on him to be a little bit more of a vocal leader than he was last year,” Johnson said Wednesday after the Valley Cubs played their first game in the Champions Sports Academy team camp. “Being a junior (last year) he was kind of hesitant about it, I think, but he and those other seniors, we really rely on them to speak out and talk about how to do things the right way.

“He brings a great work ethic to practice, one of the better work ethics we’ve ever had since I’ve been at Alexandria, and shows the other kids if you want to get better at your game you have to work at it. These guys want to be led. We’ve got some really good kids coming up and they want to do things the right way and I want him to expand his personality and become a vocal leader.”

It’s not really in Dodd’s nature to be that way. He admitted that as a tenth-grader playing varsity for the first time he was timid about telling older teammates what they should be doing. Probably the most vocal thing he can ever remember doing was reminding the players of the sets they needed to be in when they returned to the floor from a time out.

But he knows it’s going to be required if the Valley Cubs wants to have a big year.

“It is something I have to work on, I definitely have to be more vocal,” he said. “I’m the leader of the team, we need somebody who’s going to be vocal and I’m going to have to step up and do that.

“I will have to change my personality. I am a quiet person. My dad’s always been trying to get on me about being more vocal since I was a little kid. That is going to be the hardest thing.”

Dodd didn’t have to be that vocal Wednesday. The Valley Cubs won their three camp games rather handily and Dodd didn’t play as much in the last two as Johnson devoted more minutes to the developing players. They play three more games Thursday morning.

It was easy to see what Dodd meant to the Valley Cubs when they didn’t have him. He missed seven games in December last season with a high ankle sprain. The Cubs were undefeated up to the game he got hurt, then went 4-3 in the games he missed with one loss by one point and two in overtime.

They won three of the first four upon his return and went 9-5 the rest of the season. Dodd averaged 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

Since the season ended he’s been in the gym working to improve his rebounding, shot blocking and free throw shooting. The latter became a particular pursuit after he missed two free throws in the closing seconds of a tight sub-state loss at Scottsboro.

They were down two when Dodd took the 3-pointer for the win. He made the first free throw, but missed the next two. Still, it’s a testament to the confidence the Valley Cubs have in him that they put the ball in his hands for the shot that got him to the line.

Earlier this spring he verbally committed to the Alabama-Huntsville program that has shown unwavering interest in him. A number of Division I coaches have since called as they’ve followed his strong start on the AAU circuit this summer, but no offers have been extended and Dodd appears comfortable with his choice.

Johnson believes the commitment will make the season less taxing on the team’s leader. Dodd doesn’t expect to play any differently.

“I’m just going to play the same way regardless,” he said. “I’m going to play like I play.”

Only a little more loudly.

The Champions camp experience gave Jacksonville coach Cordell Hunt a chance to do something he didn’t have the chance to do with the Golden Eagles last year — have some offseason work with his team.

Hunt got the Jacksonville job — his first varsity coaching job — late in the summer and it was a learning curve for both sides all season long.

The growing pains were reflected in their record – the Golden Eagles won three games last season. They won three games Wednesday, including an emotionally uplifting 46-29 victory over county rival Weaver, a team they lost to three times last year, in their final game of the day.

They also beat Sand Rock and Asbury. See, the time together is already paying dividends for a team that has only two seniors – again — but returns at least six players who saw significant minutes a year ago.

“I didn’t get any of this stuff we’re doing now; it’s been a big benefit for us,” Hunt said. “We’ve been able to get some practice in, (and) on top of that after basketball season I was able to work with the kids after school.

“We struggled last year; it was a battle just to get the kids to do the things I wanted to do. The big thing (Wednesday) is the kids responded to what we’ve been trying to put into them. I’m very pleased. For all I know Weaver’s best player is sitting at home eating a chicken nugget right now, but it’s very encouraging. They got us three or four times last year and we were able to get them today and that’s got to be big as far as our kids’ mentality, knowing that if we’ll just play we can play with anybody.”

The Golden Eagles play three more games Thursday – Ranburne (9:55 a.m.), Saks (11:45 a.m.) and Collinsville (1:35 p.m.).

Here is the complete Thursday schedule at Champions Sports Academy:

9 a.m. – Sand Rock vs. Lincoln, Hokes Bluff vs. Alexandria
9:55 – Collinsville vs. Saks, Ranburne vs. Jacksonville
10:50 – Sand Rock vs. Hokes Bluff, Lincoln vs. Alexandria
11:45 – Collinsville vs. Ranburne, Saks vs. Jacksonville
12:40 p.m. – Sand Rock vs. Alexandria, Lincoln vs. Hokes Bluff
1:35 – Collinsville vs. Jacksonville, Saks vs. Ranburne
2:30 – Weaver vs. Cleburne County, Springville vs. Westbrook Christian
3:25 – Asbury vs. Boaz, Weaver vs. Springville
4:20 – Cleburne County vs. Asbury, Westbrook Christian vs. Boaz
5:15 – Weaver vs. Westbrook Christian
6:20 – Asbury vs. Springville, Boaz vs. Cleburne County

Alexandria’s Joe Tucker tries to drive to the basket while avoiding the reach of a Ranburne defender.

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from Wednesday’s games, go to www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com and click the basketball file

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