Published in the Evansville Courier and Press by Chad Lindskog , Chad.Lindskog@courierpress.com
Mekhi Lairy drove to the basket and drew contact. His defender insisted on stopping him and maintained pressure, even after the play was dead.
Lairy turned and smiled in amusement that his teammate was being so aggressive during Thursday’s practice at Bosse High School.
About a minute later, Jaylin Chinn saw two Bulldogs battling for a loose ball so he dove to create a dogpile, trying to secure the ball himself.
When one of the Bulldogs later made a shot, everyone cheered. When another knocked down a jumper in transition, he playfully taunted. Their intrasquad scrimmages couldn’t be more intense.
“If we can get our practices to be the toughest competition we have all week long, then the games are going to take care of themselves,” coach Shane Burkhart said.
Bosse is two players deep at every position. Their scrimmages are competitive because they essentially have two starting fives that understand the work it takes to achieve greatness.
The Bulldogs were the Class 3A runner-up last season after losing the state championship to Marion. If practice is any indicator, they’re committed to returning to Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“There are times when kids are frustrated when they walk out of the gym, but they’re family, they love each other and they get through,” Burkhart said. “But, man, there can be very intense practices.”
Some of them have hardly left the gym since the spring. Senior Javi Langley said the postseason run was a turning point in their work ethic.
The 6-foot-4 Langley dropped 20 pounds and will be more versatile as the starting center — of all his players, Burkhart is most impressed with Langley. At times he could only be on the floor for three or four minutes before being subbed out, now he can last an entire quarter.
Factor in 6-8 freshman Kiryon Powell, 6-7 senior transfer Romeo Parker and 6-7 senior Tre Johnson and Bosse will be forceful in the post.
“It helps me a lot because I don’t have to play the center spot the whole time so I can move out to the four and three,” Langley said.
Lairy, who averaged a team-best 18.1 points per game, has improved his shot off the dribble. He, Langley and Jaidon Hunter, a senior who scored 9.6 per game, are emerging as the team’s voices of reason.
The trio wants the Bulldogs to bond like they did last year with seniors Erik Bell and Ethan Thomas, who are playing at Manchester University.
“We want to play together more instead of being selfish,” Lairy said. “We’re going to be more vocal and be an example.”
Bosse was ranked No. 4 in the preseason AP poll, despite possibly being even better than last season. The Bulldogs know where they stand, even if it’s a frivolous measure in November — and in March, to an extent, because Bosse went 13-10 during the regular season last year.
“We just want to make sure we do our part and hopefully we get that one spot later on,” Lairy said.
One: A word the Bulldogs have been repeating. They were one win away from contending for a conference title last season; one win shy of having a shiny blue state championship ring.
It’s why they treat every practice like a playoff game.
“One more sprint, one more shot, one more rebound — something that’s going to get us to the point where we’re having the ending Marion got to have on us last year,” Burkhart said. “We can’t allow the pressure to push us away from embracing the competition.”