New Clements basketball coach hits the ground running

Clements High School players Deontae Crenshaw, left, and Ian Ezell (black jerseys) defend in a recent summer league game against Haleyville.

Mike Holt was hired as the new Clements High School boys basketball coach one month ago, but he has already been hard at work to change a program that struggled through a difficult season last year.

Holt, a former Huntsville High School head coach and Decatur High School assistant coach, has already seen progress in his players during a successful summer season.

“When you're coming in and inheriting a new team, the biggest goal is to get the kids to buy into what you're trying to teach them,” Holt said. “You've got to be enthusiastic about your approach, and it motivates them to want to be there and work hard.”

That hard work seems to be paying off, as Clements went 6-6 in 12 summer league games. That .500 record might not seem like much until you consider Clements struggled through a 2-25 season in 2018-2019.

“I think these kids are hungry to see a difference, and it starts with their attitude,” Holt said. “We hung in there with Ardmore and ended up losing a close one. But we turned around and beat a good Holly Pond team, and also Haleyville by 15 points. We won some games I don't even think they thought they could win in the past.”

Holt said senior leadership has helped the players buy into what he has been teaching.

“We have really good senior leadership that helps with the commitment to getting better,” Holt said. “The kids have started to buy into what we're preaching. Not just from an X's and O's standpoint, but how hard you've got to practice and what kind of attitude you have to have in your everyday approach. We try to preach to the kids it doesn't matter who your opponent is, it's preparation and how you approach each opponent.”

When it comes to coaching, Holt said he takes some teaching points from Alabama football coach Nick Saban.

“I'm not even a big Nick Saban fan, but he preaches about the process,” Holt said. “I felt like early on in the summer, our kids are buying into the process and learning what it takes to win. Finishing the summer 6-6 is reflective of that attitude.”

While talking about the process is all well and good, winning is the most important thing, and scoring some wins in the summer is a good way to let the players know their work is paying off in a tangible way.

“(Winning) definitely brings credibility to what we're trying to do,” Holt said. “If they see the fruits of their labor, it will encourage them to want to get better and they can find that self-belief. That's huge with coaching kids, getting them to believe in what they're doing. Hopefully, they've got a good taste in their mouths and want to continue to grow and improve.”

While the current Clements High boys basketball team is working to improve, the future Clements boys and girls programs will also get a chance to improve when the high school hosts a youth basketball camp July 25-26. The camp will be run by coaches staff and high school players at Clements.

The camp, which is for boys and girls in kindergarten through sixth grade, will last from 9-11:30 a.m. each day at Blue Springs Elementary School. Cost is $35 per player, with a $10 discount given to additional siblings. Each player will receive a camp T-shirt.

Each player should wear proper camp attire, including basketball shoes. Gatorade and snacks will be sold for $1 during break time.

Registration can be made in advance or at the door beginning at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, July 25. Make checks payable to Clements High School. Pre-registration can be mailed to Mike Holt, Clements High School, 7730 U.S. 72, Athens, AL 35611.

For more information, contact Holt at 210-867-1047.