No. 1 Vikings a special team
by Danny Wade
When someone asks Coach Ron Abernathy about this year’s Humboldt Viking basketball team, his eyes light up and he smiles the biggest smile. And that smile reaches from the Mississippi River to the Great Smokey Mountains for his No. 1 ranked Class A team in Tennessee.
In Coach Ab’s 30 years of coaching high school basketball, he said he has only had one other team as special as this group of student-athletes he has now.
“We have good kids that are certainly focused,” Abernathy said last week. “This is a very special team and it’s a blessed year for us.”
But as talented as this team is on the court, Abernathy is just as proud of their character, both on the court and off the court.
“As coaches, our staff demands they be good students in the classroom and at home,” Abernathy continued. “If a parent comes to me with concerns, we address it. We hold our players to higher standards in order to be successful. Do what needs to be done in the classroom and at home. That parlays to the (basketball) court.”
Humboldt Jr. & Sr. High School principal, James Walker, echoes Abernathy’s assessment of athletes being good students first.
“I am very proud of the accomplishments of our basketball team on the court this season, but I am prouder of their ability to be leaders in our building on a daily basis,” principal Walker said. “They are setting the bar for what it means to be a student-athlete.”
Dr. Versie Hamlett, superintendent of Humboldt City Schools, recalls the question asked most when she was hired almost three years ago—who will be the new boys basketball coach. Coach Ab was the man for the job that replaced the legendary Thomas Boykin who retired. That hire is paying dividends.
“Coach Abernathy has done a phenomenal job at Humboldt City Schools. I am so proud of the accomplishments of his team!” Dr. Hamlett said. “He has established so much more in the young men than just the game of basketball. He has instilled a strong work ethic, discipline, and sense of team in all of his players, both on and off the court. Coach Abernathy holds his players, and his staff, to a high degree of excellence that is evident each time they step on the court.”
The key to a quality team is good leadership and that starts on the court, in the locker room and in the classroom. He has that leadership with a good group of seniors, Devonte Bennett, Jarred Walker, Carlton Childs, Izaya Brown and Kortland Martin. Abernathy said all five seniors have a chance to continue at the next level in college. All have qualified with good ACT and GPAs, and have colleges showing interest.
“Jarred Walker is the leader of the team—no question,” Abernathy said. “He’s the point guard and leader on the floor. He’s smart and knowledgeable about basketball.”
But as good as the seniors are, Abernathy has future leaders waiting in the wings for the next couple of years. Two juniors, Justin Pankey and Josh Glenn, and three sophomores, R.J. Abernathy, Anthony Jones and Trent Green have all started games this season.
“We have a rotation of about 10 players in a game,” Abernathy said of having a deep bench. “Our philosophy is to develop our kids. Every kid has a position and that’s how we substitute. We keep up with how they progress from one to 14 (the number of players on the team).”
Abernathy spoke of a recent game where the Vikings were up by 20-plus points at the half. When the substitutes came in, the intensity did not change. All 14 players got in the game, which was won by 35 points.
“That shows our program works,” Abernathy explained. “That’s what we strive for.”
“I have been involved with athletics for quite some time and you know a special team and staff when you see it,” said athletic director, George Yarbro. “The boys basketball team is a great group of student-athletes with great coaches who are working hard to reach a goal the entire team, school and community can all be proud of. I feel it!”
“I look forward to watching the team play in the upcoming weeks, said Dr. Hamlett. “The community support has been overwhelming as we watch such a talented team work together for their common goal of success.”
This year’s No.1 ranked Humboldt Viking basketball team is fun to watch whether its the pinpoint passing by Walker, the sharpshooter touch by Abernathy, Childs and Martin, the inside muscle of Bennett and Pankey or the thunderous dunks by Jones, basketball in Humboldt is entertainment at its best. Who knows, there may be a gold ball trophy being hoisted this year.