The phrase ‘up to speed’ has taken on a new meaning for the Fulton boys’ basketball program
The Steamers are no strangers to underclassmen filling the ranks. This year the varsity roster includes sophomore Brock Mason.
It also includes a handful of juniors who used their underclassmen time in the varsity ranks to get ‘up to speed’.
Point guard Connor Barnett and shooting guard Kyler Pessman are two of those. They started as sophomores and are back for a second year as the Steamers’ main offensive producers.
They were leading scorers as sophomores as well, but now they’re a year matured. It’s made a difference.
“They’ve both improved really in every area,” head coach RJ Coffey said. “The scoring was there last year, but their averages have gone up. They were really shoot-first guards, but they’ve really started looking at using their athleticism and getting to the rim.”
Both Pessman and Barnett are all over the court for the Steamers, shooting from the outside and offering a powerful dribble attack. They’ve helped lift the Steamers to a 12-5 start so far.
Last season was a transition for them as they learned the pace of a varsity basketball game.
“The game is a lot faster,” Barnett said. “The game has slowed down a lot this year. It lets us play more as a team, and for me to get my teammates more involved.”
It helps that the Steamers have added even more talent to the court and to the bench. One of those is sophomore Brock Mason, who comes in with ball handling skills and a big defensive addition.
“He’s a good compliment to both Connor and Kyler,” Coach Coffey said. “He’s another ball handler, and that allows Connor to play on the wing more which is nice.”
Even he had to get used to the speed of the game. He is a varsity football player as well, but this is his first year with the varsity squad on the basketball floo.
“I started off slow, but I’m getting used to it,” Mason said. “My teammates have helped me get into the groove of things and things are starting to slow down.”
And Coffey: “Overall, he’s handled it really well. He’s had some big games for us, even if he’s not necessarily showing up in the score book.”
Speed is something the Steamers thrive off of. With their guard-heavy lineup and quick post players they force the tempo against every opponent they have, forcing turnovers and moving the ball quickly down the floor.
“Coach preaches to play fast, especially if it’s in transition,” Pessman said. “We get a board and we push it right away, slow it down if we get in the half court.”
That style of play has improved with time, the Steamers turning it over less and less on their end. The Steamers went 12-15 last season, ending in a heartbreaking two-point loss to Orion in regional play.
“Last year was fun heading to the regional championship game and we learned a lot,” Pessman said.” It was a tough loss and we were all upset about it, but it made us want to work harder this year.”
They’re also looking for a Three Rivers Athletic Conference title, which they’re on a good pace for. They’re currently 3-0 in the TRAC, but have tough tests coming, including Orion (11-5) on Thursday.
The quick start is nothing surprising to them. Five of their losses last season were by less than eight points, proving they were on the cusp of being an elite team.
With another year of experience under their belt, it looks like elite is a possibility.
“We all expected to be here,” Pessman said. “We’re returning some people and knew we were having good players coming up. We expected this.”