AAU experience invaluable for Panthers senior

06/09/2014 12:50 PM

06/09/2014 12:51 PM

Jackson Ray has worked hard for this time in his high school basketball career. A newly-minted senior, Ray is playing basketball this summer for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Fort Worth Jayhawks 2015 Gold team and using the time to prepare for his final season at Fossil Ridge.

“The Jayhawks give me more experience at a high level and the chance to play more games,” Ray said. “We play at a varsity pace and against some of the best players in DFW and outside the state, also. It makes you better for your high school team to be exposed to that competition.”

Fossil Ridge head coach Zack Myers is looking forward to seeing what Ray learns over the summer. The Panthers had 11 seniors graduate this year, making the experience of the returning varsity players critical.

“Jack’s leadership will be important this year. He is definitely a guy who works hard and has been through the varsity grind. He knows what’s expected of him every day and how to conduct himself on and off of the court,” Myers said. “I hope he can show the younger guys how you have to work and what is expected.”

On both his high school team and the AAU team, Ray is successful as a two-guard.

“He is a knock-down shooter,” said Jayhawks head coach Rodney McFadden. “There’s not a shot alive he doesn’t like, and he is a very confident shooter.”

“Jack can really shoot. He has a quick release and when he takes good shots he really shoots the ball well,” Myers agreed. “He is also a smart player. He positions himself well and knows where to be and when to be there.”

At 5-10, Ray knows he has to develop different aspects of his game to be successful in a sport often dominated by larger players.

“I’m a smart player. I know when to pass the ball,” he said. “I’m not the biggest guy on the court, so I have to be smarter.”

Through the summer league, McFadden is hoping to see Ray build on his strengths and head into his senior season as well-prepared as possible.

“We have talked quite a bit and I’ve told him that a big thing for him is knowing when and when not to take shots,” he said. “As he grows as a player and improves on the defensive side of the ball, and plays the caliber of play against these varsity level kids this summer, it should pay dividends for him next year.”

Myers also believes the summer experience will help him have a stronger varsity team.

“As young as most of our guys are, I hope this summer they can gain some experience and competitiveness and get acclimated to the speed of the varsity game,” he said. “The more they play in this scenario, the better they will be.”

Ray is hoping the experience will help him become a role model in his senior season.

“I hope to lead the new kids, win some games and play well as a team. Considering that we had such a talented class ahead of us, I didn’t get as much playing time, and this is something I have been working toward since my freshman year,” he said. “I hope I can give it my best effort and my hard work pays off.”

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