Elba boys basketball coach William Moguel waits for the Tigers' game to begin at a recent tournament in Slocomb.

Elba boys basketball coach William Moguel has to keep reminding himself to be patient with his young team.

“I think I lost about seven seniors last year, with a couple kids that played for me for about three years,” Moguel said, referencing players like 6-foot-6 Alex Wright and 6-foot-4 Vilee Sams, not to mention playmaker Richmon Singletary. “We’re young and inexperienced.”

In case he forgets about patience part, Moguel has a reliable backup.

“I preach being patient to my kids, but when I get home my wife preaches the same thing to me. She knows how I am,” Moguel said with a laugh. “I can be patient, but I’m impatient, too. I catch myself plenty of times getting on to them.

“I have to step back and say, ‘It’s the heat of the moment.’ I have to think we’re young. It’s taken me some time to get used to doing that, but I’m going to have to.”

It didn’t take Elba graduation ceremony for Moguel to realize this would be a rebuilding season. However, he sees potential in this group.

“The good thing about it is we’ve got five seniors this year and they’re great kids,” he said, a group that includes his son, Ryan Moguel.

“He loves to play the game,” the coach said about his son. “But most of the kids that play most of the games are underclassmen. I’ve got a great group of kids. The good thing is we’ve got a lot of them coming back next year. The big thing is to get better as the year goes on. By the time the area tournament comes maybe we’ll be playing a lot better.”

Two juniors — John Martin Wilson and Collin Harrison — have been leading contributors for the Tigers, along with sophomore Chrystyile Caldwell.

“I guess the biggest improvement has come in our guard play,” the coach said. “John Martin Wilson has been running our point guard for us lately. He has played for me before, but he took last year off and is back with us. He has really gotten better each game.

“Chrystyile Caldwell has really taken the load. He’s averaging about 20-something points per game right now. He’s just a sophomore. He’s about 6-1, and he’s the tallest player we’ve got. We don’t have any height. We’re having to play a more upbeat tempo type of game, play a little more pressure.”

Harrison is one of the team’s most potent offensive players, but is fighting through a scoring slump.

“He’s a great shooter, a great player, he’s just in a slump right now,” Moguel said. “He’s the type of kid that can come out of it at any time. I told him, ‘If I don’t tell you to stop shooting, that’s the only way you’re going to hit it is if you keep shooting it.’ I feel like Collin will come out of his slump.”

The coach added Harrison isn’t the only Tiger struggling on the offensive end.

“We’ve got a lot of shots not falling. We’ve got to start hitting some free throws. We’re shooting awful from the free throw line,” the coach said. “It’s just going to take some time for us to learn to play together and find each other out.”

The Tigers, who seem to always get a late start due to football playoffs, return to action with a Class 1A, Area 3 game against Kinston on Jan. 7.

“Everybody’s got to beat Brantley and Florala,” Moguel said about the area race. “They’re both really, really good. We’re just going to do the best we can.

“My biggest thing going after Christmas break is just to get better each game, each day at practice, and try to get better with one another.”

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