In the days leading up to Thursday’s season opener, Robert E. Lee players have worked extensively on their conditioning.

The Red Raiders will need to be in shape because new coach Alan Simmons wants to push the pace - and keep pushing the pace.

“We are going to try to get the ball out quick before a team presses us and whether they press us or not,” Simmons said. “We want to score in transition so we can turn around and play defense.

“If we don’t have that transition (bucket) we will get into our offense, but we would rather not set an offense up. We would rather get out in transition. Defensively, we are going to try and do a full-court game (on defense) whether it’s zone press or man press.”

The Red Raiders face Green Oaks (Louisiana) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Huntington High School in Shreveport in their opener of the Battle on the Hardwood Classic.

REL is matched up against three Louisiana foes in its three games. On Friday, Lee will face Bossier at 7 p.m. at Huntington with the Red Raiders closing out against Booker T. Washington at 2 p.m. Saturday at Centenary College’s Gold Dome.

The offensive and defensive philosophy for the Red Raiders is a 180-degree turn from what REL did the past two seasons under former head coach Jeff Coleman, who employed a methodical approach that eventually yielded an open shot. The Red Raiders made the playoffs in his first season, but slipped to a disappointing 4-10 mark in district a year ago and were 9-17 overall in 2016, prompting a change.

Simmons faced Coleman’s REL team four times as head coach of district foe Rockwall and respects the Red Raiders’ former head man, but believes Lee’s best path to success is to go fast.

“We are trying to speed up the tempo because we feel like that makes our kids better right now,” Simmons said.

The two players currently charged with piloting are point guards Isaiah Davison (5-10) and Kameron Ross (5-9). Davison, a senior, played significant minutes a year ago while Ross, a sophomore, is making his varsity debut.

“They are both doing a great job of learning what we want as far as being the quarterback on the floor,” Simmons said.

Simmons said he is fortunate to have several options at shooting guard in seniors Jalen Smith (6-0), Christian Horton (5-10), Mike Donnell (5-10), Keashun Davis (6-2) and Kirby Mabry (6-5), along with junior Curtis Jones (6-2).

“We will have a rotation and we are still working everything out,” Simmons said. “They are all doing a great job and it’s just going to be a matter of finding minutes for them and finding where they are going to help us the best. We’ll start that process (Thursday).”

The interior for REL will be manned by seniors Bryce Harden (6-3), Stephen McLendon (6-2), Tobias High (6-4), Korbin Casey (6-1), Brandon Wade (6-5), Caleb Culver (6-4) and junior Chance Amie (6-4).

“We have some really good kids and some good pieces. We don’t have that dominating player and we are trying to build a team and a family and see what happens,” Simmons said. “We have a good chance to win the boards and get out and run. They’ve bought into (this fast-paced attack) and hopefully tomorrow we will be able to see those things come out in a positive way.”

REL will play its home opener Monday at Varsity Gymnasium as part of a doubleheader with the Lady Raiders. The Lady Raiders take on Winnsboro at 1:30 pm. followed by the Red Raiders against Lufkin at 3 p.m.

Robert E. Lee Boys Varsity Basketball Schedule

Nov. 17 Green Oaks (La.)^ 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 18 Bossier City (La.)^ 7 p.m.

Nov. 19 Booker T. Washington (La.)^ 2 p.m.

Nov. 21 Lufkin 3 p.m.

Nov. 29 @ Jacksonville 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 1-3 Lufkin Tournament TBA

Dec. 13 @ Whitehouse 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 21 Mesquite Horn* 2:30 p.m.

Dec. 28-30 Floyd Wagstaff Holiday Classic TBA

Jan. 3 Mesquite* 7 p.m.

Jan. 6 @ Rockwall* 7 p.m.

Jan. 10 North Mesquite* 7 p.m.

Jan. 13 @ John Tyler* 7 p.m.

Jan. 17 @ Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.

Jan. 20 Longview* 7 p.m.

Jan. 24 @ Mesquite Horn* 7 p.m.

Jan. 27 @ Mesquite* 7 p.m.

Jan. 31 Rockwall* 7 p.m.

Feb. 3 @ North Mesquite* 7 p.m.

Feb. 7 John Tyler* 7 p.m.

Feb. 10 Rockwall-Heath* 7 p.m.

Feb. 14 @ Longview* 7 p.m.

^ - Battle on the Hardwood Classic. Thursday and Friday’s games will be played at Huntington High School with Saturday’s game at Gold Dome at Centenary College in Shreveport, La.

* - District 11-6A game


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