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Upbeat Hornets ready for next test

JEFFERSON — The Hornets wrapped up practice early Wednesday. It is an occurrence that will take place all week as the athletic programs make accomodations for the graduation exam.

While many coaches would find the shortened practices to be frustrating, first-year man Rodney Dixon has spent more time stressing the importance of academics to his young team.

According to Dixon, the team will soon begin observing a study hall session. The attitudes surrounding the forthcoming implementation have reportedly been upbeat.

“Basketball is improving the kids’ morale at school,” Dixon said of the phenomon.

That upbeat ambience is apparent during and after Hornet practices as the 2-3 John Essex team is learning to explore its own limitations.

“Right now I’ve got a team of happy players,” Dixon said. “We’ve really got a team aspect going. We’ve got a whole lot of camaraderie.”

Dixon credits the Hornets improving team chemistry to the leadership of players like Zackary Fluker.

“He’s extremely great with making the rest of the team better,” Dixon said of Fluker. “He could have taken more shots (during the A.L. Johnson victory last week), but he stepped back and got Zameke (Fluker) involved with 12 points and Jimmy (Branch) involved with 10 points.”

“I’m trying to get all of them involved,” Zackary Fluker said of his teammates. His efforts have not been fruitless thus far.

“He tells me to shoot the ball,” A.J. Bennett said of the encouragement he has received from Zackary. “We’ve grown a lot since everybody started scoring and playing the roles.”

The optimism permeating the program is a far cry from difficulties many of the players faced when playing for an outmanned JEHS football squad.

“It’s a big turnaround from football,” Zackary Fluker said. “Everybody’s got that mentality that it’s revenge even though it is a different sport.”

The Hornets next game will come Friday night against the Panthers of Marengo High.

“They’ve always been tough. They’ve always been quick,” Dixon said of Marengo. “Really we’re just going to go out and play hard-nosed defense.”

The Hornets will have less than a 24-hour turnaround after the out-of-area game in Dixons Mills. The boys will take to the hardwood Saturday night against Linden in a game with significant area implications.

“They’re long. They’re athletic,” Dixon said of the Patriots. “They’ve got four guys who can easily score in double figures. We’re going to have to do a whole lot of planning. (Linden head coach) Joe Eatmon is a great coach.”