"The kids are buying into the team concept," says Portal basketball coach Jeff Brannen. "They're sharing the ball more and we're running the break more and getting a lot of easy baskets off our defense."
The Panthers started the season by winning their first 7 games and now are 8-1. Senior Fred Williams was a known commodity. the 6-2, 205 pounder is averaging more than 20 points and 5 rebounds a game.
But the Panthers have added a 6-4 junior, Mario Farris, who move to Portal from Pine Bluff, Arkansas and he's given the Panthers a new dimension. "I'm used to a half-court set but Coach Brannen likes to run the ball so that's a plus to help me get out on the break and get my alley-oops and stuff for the team." Brannen adds his comments on his new post player, "He an athletic post player who can rebound and run the floor, and he plays good defense. Right now we're taking advantage of his quickness and he's running the floor really well and he can score around the basket. Fred is distributing the ball and we're getting the post play we haven't had in the past." Farris adds, "It's all new to me. In Arkansas they slow the ball down in half court sets so I just have to adjust to it and get into shape."
Farris adds a spark that can be felt immediately, like the opening play in a victory over Southeast Bulloch. "The first play of the game you don't hardly see a player go down and dunk. I just tried to set the tone and show who came to play. The fans are telling me they come to see me dunk and I try to satisfy them."
point guard Marquan Jackson is the engine that drives the Panthers. He runs the offense like a coach on the floor. "He's doing a good job of distributing the ball and running our offense," says Brannen. "The point guard is like a third coach on the floor and he knows what we expect out of him and he knows where to get the ball to fred and and to mario and his other teammates." Farris adds his comments on the Panthers' playmaker, "Oh boy, he runs the team. He's not worried about scoring, he's going to get others involved. He pushes the ball up the court and run the team like it's supposed to be run. He's like a coach on the floor."