Basketball adds to successful year at Orange
It doesn’t take long being around Orange basketball coach Greg Motley to figure out he’s not a courtside carnival barker or a glitzy showman given to theatrics.
He’s that deliberate, almost stoic, lunch pail kind of coach.
He shows up to work every day with a toolbox full of tried-and-true tactics, tackles each day’s tasks, and masters the art of understatement. Even when his talent-rich team is an auspicious 16-2 and perched atop the Big Eight 3-A Conference this year at 8-0.
“We don’t really talk about our success too much,” Motley said. “We let that take care of itself.”
Really? There’s no jubilant locker room banter, post-season predictions, or puffed-chest pride from a team that’s on a major roll and has won as many games at this point in the schedule as the previous two seasons of a combined 16-29 record, 4-13 in conference play?
“We just talk about it one game at a time, so we don’t really look too far ahead,” Motley said. “The thing we try to keep them focused on is that the more you win, the more people want to beat you, so you have to bring your best game every night.”
Having been coach at Orange High coach since 1998, Motley knows about cycles.
“Some years it’s successful, some years it’s tough. But I would like to think over the years we were very competitive even when we were down,” Motley said.
He won’t say how this year’s team compares to some of his previous standout squads. He prefers to keep his measuring stick two seasons long.
“I don’t go back too much further than that because I don’t think it would be fair to the program,” he said.
Nor is he prone to tectonic shifts in his coaching strategy or playmaking.
“We’ve actually been here for a long time with our system,” Motley said. “I don’t think that much has changed over the years. We kind of stick with what we do and try to get our team better than others.”
But there is one big difference this year.
“We’re probably deeper than we were last year,” Motley said. “We played maybe seven or eight kids last year. This year, some nights we feel like we can go 11, maybe 12 some nights.”
Only three of this year’s starters got significant playing time last season.
“The rest of our kids came up from jayvees for the most part,” Motley said.
Jawan Chambers started playing varsity since as a ninth-grader.
“He’s doing a good job for us this year,” Motley said.
“Keegan Crabtree is in his third year of varsity. “He’s having a good season,” Motley said. J.D. Brooks “was the same kind of (varsity) player (last year) but got more confidence as a senior.”
Eryk Brandon-Dean and Jeff Campbell were on varsity last season, but had limited playing time
Why this team has gelled is a tough call.
“I really can’t put my finger on it to be honest. If I had to call it I would say this group is a little closer outside of basketball,” Motley said.
Brooks and Crabtree are co-captains.
“Keegan is more of a verbal leader, I would say, than J.D. is, but J.D. is a guy who comes to work every day, so he leads more by example” Motley said. “They do the right stuff and try to set a good example. They work hard. I think the kids have a tremendous level of respect for them.”
Brooks, Campbell, Tay Jones, A.J. Bradsher, Garrett Cloer and Landon Wheeler joined the team late. They were members of the Orange football team that advanced to the 3AA Eastern Championship semi-finals. Having multi-sport athletes with sometimes conflicting schedules is an annual event.
“We actually played our first game the second day they were with basketball,” Motley said.
He was able to reschedule games to accommodate the football teams’ deep run in the state championships. That’s an advantage of longevity and knowing the other coaches so well.
“We try to take care of each other as best we can” Motley said.
“I think it’s a great help, and I’m always pushing for kids to play as many sports as they can. We don’t ask kids to specialize here,” said Orange Athletic Director Earnie Price.
“We try to get the point across to them that if they’re trying to play at the next level college recruiters are looking for athletes, and I think it makes them more well rounded if they’re playing multiple sports,” Price said.
Players have “really bought into all-season workouts. We’ve got kids here all summer. They’ve been in the weight room, going to camps, and of course we couldn’t do it without the great coaching staff we have,” Price said.
“Our coaches all get along great, and they’re all supportive of each other’s programs,” Price said. “I’ve been to a lot of different high schools where there was a lot of jealousy. There’s none of that here.”
That’s part of the reason for Orange’s high level of athletic success. Add to this year’s basketball and football achievements a wrestling team that has won several state championships in recent years, and a baseball team that won its way into the 3A Final Four in 2013.
Price said the coaches not only work well across sports, but “work real closely with the middle schools that feed us.”
Price, a former middle school coach, said it’s vital “to make the middle school kids feel a part of what’s going on. We have nights for middle schools to come out and recognize them, and they’re always meeting with the middle school programs, inviting them to come over and work their camps.”
“When you hire great people that have great character, kids want to be a part of that kind of program,” Price said, regardless of which sport it is. “So they’ve paid the price and now they’re seeing the results of it.”