BY DENNIS SILVA II | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Growth, tangible and otherwise, has been substantial for Cinco Ranch.
After a 14-20 campaign last season, the Cougars rebounded impressively this season, with the same core of precocious talent, after Tuesday’s 53-60 win over Taylor at home booked a ticket to the Class 6A playoffs beginning in two weeks.
Aside from star senior sharpshooter Jaron Presley, who is one of the top 10 scorers in the city of Houston, the Cougars have a roster of gifted playmakers that leave fans grasping for their game programs because they fly under the proverbial radar.
But guys like junior forward Jayden Collymore, senior guard Jerzy Tati, junior forward Derek Dickenscheidt and senior wing Andrew Adebo have all starred in leading Cinco Ranch back to the postseason.
The Cougars lost 20 of 34 games last season and went 3-11 during district play. With two games left in the regular season, these Cougars are 25-6, 8-2 in district, and ranked 18th in Class 6A in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches.
“We were pissed off how we did last year, so we worked really hard,” Collymore said. “So to say this was unexpected … I’m not trying to be cocky, but no. Not at all.”
Generally, the usual suspects in leading the Cougars to victory are either Presley (12 points, four assists on Tuesday) or Adebo (11 points, eight rebounds). Tuesday, it was Collymore.
With Taylor’s zone defense shifted high to stop Presley, the 6-foot-5, 195-pound Collymore took advantage. Placed in the middle of the zone, between the top and bottom areas that went neglected, Collymore showed a veteran’s poise in either shooting, dishing to a diving baseline cutter, or passing the ball back out to re-set the offense.
He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals.
“You don’t know when you’ll get the ball,” Collymore said. “But when I get it, I trust my teammates that they’ll be where they’re supposed to and I can make that pass.”
Everyone but Presley was new to the varsity game prior to last season. But this year, with two seasons of varsity ball under their belt, guys like Collymore are showing they’re capable of taking over when necessary.
“I really had to work on my shooting and my mentality,” Collymore said. “I was pretty soft coming from JV to varsity. I had to work on having a short-term memory. Varsity ball is about being in the moment, focusing on winning the game at hand and moving on to the next.”
Coach Neil King said Collymore “has to play well for us to be successful.” More than any other stat his forward produced Tuesday, King was happiest with the four charges taken.
“He’s a kid that continues to develop and get better and better,” King said. “He’s extremely athletic. He can play multiple positions. He’s a tremendous athlete when it comes to rebounding, finishing, ball-handling, shooting. He’s invaluable.”
Collymore’s shooting has improved enough to where it is now a strength. He said he spent “hours and hours” in the gym during the summer honing his lefty shot.
Collymore, Dickenscheidt and Adebo have emerged as consistent two-way contributors, taking pressure off Presley as a ballhandler and scorer, while Tati is arguably the team’s best defender and a natural leader.
It wasn’t always like that. Last season was a torturous work in progress. But that grind has paid off.
“You’re going to go through growing pains when you graduate everybody,” King said. “It’s been a learning curve. They have to learn what it takes to be successful when the real games start. When you start putting 65-70 games on those guys, they get it. They understand. Last year, they were young. We had to rebuild and reload, and while last year was frustrating, they’re able to see the fruits of their labor and see where we talked about going.”
It’s landed the Cougars back in the playoff picture, and with a team still growing and improving at the perfect time of the season.
“This team is a band of brothers,” Collymore said. “Team chemistry has been such a big deal for us. It’s a connection. We’re not even a team; we’re lifelong friends who will probably be watching our kids play here in 30 years.”