“Nobody likes us and we are never the favorite,” said senior Jaylon Hall about his Doss team. His words don’t come short of ironic considering Doss has been the sixth region champion the last two seasons to punching tickets to the state tournament.
Even after reaching the state championship last year, before falling to Paul Laurence Dunbar, Hall and the Dragons believe they play and must continue to play with a chip on their shoulder.
“That is something we just grew into. We have always been known as a bad school and a troublesome school. Half the kids we’ve had have always been athletic guys, but guys with attitude. We use that as fuel in practice and it helps us prepare for the tough games. I feel like that is what helped us a lot last year. We fought a lot of adversity.”
The culture has been changed in the past three seasons, due in large part to Hall’s uncle, former University of Louisville player and Doss alum Tony Williams. Since his arrival, Doss has gone 60-15, while silencing naysayers year-in and year-out. Amid their success, there are still a few who are slow to cast their vote on Doss as one of the top teams headed into a new season, even after finishing as one of the top ten teams in the state the season prior.
So when it comes to expectation, Williams knows it is something he and his team have to create for themselves. It’s the lowly Dragon, who goes into battle as the favorite, but with the label ‘underdog’ hovering over them.
“We are the only ones who created the expectation [to do well]. No one else has expected it,” says Williams. “I think we thrive better under pressure. When you talk about it, when you talk that stuff, you have to be prepared to back it up. I like putting myself in that situation, and I also like the preparation process to back it up. I take a lot of pride in that. I spend many hours watching film, many hours studying statistics, and searching for game plan strategies. So far it has paid off. I take pride in that, and my guys take pride in being the underdog and overcoming obstacles.”
In another year, it appears to be the same. Doss faces the task of proving to the state they are a worthy contender, and in their locker room, it’s just business as usual. The self-assured Williams believes the system in place is the recipe to continued success and to be on a bus ride on I-64 east to Lexington come March 2017, for a third consecutive state tournament appearance.
“The foundation is set, they just have to open their mind and hearts and be willing to put forth the effort, the one thing they can control. If they are willing to do that, we’ll get right back to where we got last year. I am confident.”
The catalyst for this season will be Jaylon. The 6-foot-6 senior, who can play multiple positions, rolled the dice about four years ago when deciding to leave Houston, Texas to come play for his Uncle. He admits it can be a love-hate relationship at times; loving him when everything is great, but hard to love him when it’s tough. He’s learned “you can’t hate him for too long, because that’s a long car ride home,” he said while laughing. “For me, it is making me tougher – to be able to take it from my family, then taking it from someone else that is not my family – is a lot easier.”
Coach Uncle Tony Williams has invested much in Jaylon and believes Jaylon and himself have both received an enormous return on investment from the program’s success while he’s been playing. Hall says his uncle has been there every step of the way to help him reach his full potential as a high school basketball player. From watching film, going to the gym, the weight room, and showing him what he can do better, Hall affirms, “He does anything that needs to be done – anything.
“I think he learned that his choice to leave Houston and to leave his family – everything he has known and loved – to come here to take a chance to be with a family member, I think he has realized it has paid off for him,” Williams adds. “Sometimes you make sacrifices, so you can continue to provide and be there with the ones you love, and that’s your family. If there is nothing else that he learns from me – if he just takes that part – I feel like a winner all day, because I take pride in my family and being a family man.” VT