Mark Starns knew exactly what he was stepping into when he accepted the boys’ basketball head coach post at Apollo High School, a proud program that nonetheless managed to win only eight of 58 games the previous two seasons.
Now, Starns is embracing the challenge in spite of the fact that the Eagles have gotten off to a 1-4 start entering Tuesday’s home game against Grayson County.
“I’ve seen some bright spots, I really have,” Starns said. “They’re getting it. We’re so close, but our team is still learning how to finish games the right way. We still need some confidence, but our players are learning.
“When I take the court, I expect to win, and I want this team to take on my personality in this regard. We have to be in that mindset that we’re going to compete hard on every possession in every game.”
Apollo is led by 6-foot senior small forward Landon Hamilton, who averages 18 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
“Landon is a high-energy player who has been very productive,” Starns said. “He’s very active and very effective for us around the basket.”
Others who have figured into the scoring equation for the Eagles have been 6-foot shooting guard Cameron Frantz (13 ppg), multi-sport standout Harrison Bowman (9.8 ppg), a 6-1 junior guard, 6-4, 230-pound senior power forward Dan St. Claire (9.6 ppg, 9.6 rpg), 5-11 junior guard Jaden Kelly (3.6 ppg), and 5-9 senior guard Adam Fitzgerald (3.6 ppg).
“I need all of our starters sharing the ball and scoring in double figures,” Starns said. “We need multiple scorers so that we’re more difficult for the opposition to prepare for. We’ve got the pieces to make this happen — we just have to put the pieces together.”
Starns has been pleased with Apollo’s defensive prowess.
“We’ve done a good job mixing our defenses and keeping teams off balance,” Starns. “We’ve held some good offensive teams to some pretty low point totals.
“Again, it’s just a matter of putting everything together, offensively and defensively, and keeping it together the entire game.”
In a word — finishing.
“We’ve lost some late leads, we’ve lost some games we should have won because of that,” Starns said. “There’s been some game slippage that has hurt us, and that’s the area where we need to become stronger and more confident.
“Closing games out and winning is a mindset and becomes a culture, and that’s what we’re trying to get turned in the right direction.”
And, make no mistake, Starns enjoys coaching his first Apollo team.
“They’re a great group of guys and they play hard for me, absolutely,” Starns said. “There will come a point where everything comes together out here and these players get that first real taste of success — they’re going to like that taste and we’re going to build on that.
We’ll get there and when we do, we have a chance to be a tough out.”