Shepler and co. set eyes on continued success


Carter Vail (SR) directs traffic on defense (photo by Russell Dearing)

Russell Dearing, Staff Writer

Coach Tim Shepler and his varsity boys basketball squad face a critical home stretch as they approach postseason play. 

The boys sit at 13-9 (1-0 area), which is a good start, but Shepler knows it could be better. 

“We’ve talked about [the team’s performance thus far] a lot,” Shepler said. After losing three starters from last year’s area championship team, Shepler had hoped that the lack of experience would not cause them to struggle early in the season. 

Unfortunately, they did stutter out of the gate, coughing up late leads to James Clemens and Pelham, games Shepler feels like they should have won. 

However, the past has passed; Shepler commends his players for gritting their teeth and their ability to “keep working.”

Sure enough, their season began to turn around when facing a familiar opponent.

Friday, Dec. 2, Homewood traveled to Vestavia Hills High School to face off against the 7A powerhouse. While the final result ended up being a four-point loss for the Patriots, Shepler said it “was the best they had played them in years,” calling it a real “confidence booster.” 

But the real turnaround came exactly one week later. 

Homewood welcomed the top-ranked 7A team in the state, the Spain Park Jaguars, and, against all odds, they earned themselves a four-point victory.

At this point, Shepler said his guys “started believing.” Since then, they won six of their eight games, with five of those by a margin of 13 or more.

With all this in mind, Shepler’s word going forward is execution. 

Above everything else, he just wants to establish a consistent level of play. “We’ve beaten three ranked teams and lost to three teams we felt we should have beaten.” Accomplish that execution, and Shepler likes their chances going into February. 

And to do so, every guy on the roster must play their role. Shepler admits that they run deeper than they have in years past, as they are able to play 11-12 guys on a nightly basis with complete confidence, something relatively unprecedented on any level. 

Over spring and summer, the Patriots adopted a “two-platoon” system. For those unfamiliar with the term, the process involves playing five starters but being able to sub in a whole other five-person lineup and then continuing to rinse and repeat. 

2014~ Kentucky’s “blue” platoon, which normally starts the game, prepares to come in after a break (photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

This system was popularized by John Calipari’s 2014 Kentucky Wildcats, who exemplified how, if done correctly, two-platooning can be incredibly convenient and dominant. 

Calipari’s team was littered with future NBA stars. While the likes of Devin Booker or Karl Anthony-Towns were never relied on to play heavy minutes or score high numbers, they could sub in, play hard, and then sub out before foul trouble, fatigue, or injury could be an issue. 

And that’s the beauty of a two-platoon system.

If 10 or more players are trusted and comfortable on the court, the five-in-five-out method allows fresh legs to be constantly ready to go and reserves to protect from foul issues or injury. 

It also provides the flexibility to play to a favorable matchup or to ride a hot hand. “We really feel like we can go five-in-five-out and not really lose much if not anything, and sometimes even gain more,” Shepler explained.

Shepler is not one to focus on stats; however, one from this year stands out to him. Homewood has seven players averaging six or more, but no one in double figures. 

“We have guys that can [get double figures at any point], but we don’t really say, ‘this guy has to score 20 for us every night to win.’” 

Two of those guys Shepler is keen on are his up-and-coming sophomores, Latham Binkley and Will Myers.

Latham Binkley (SO) hits turnaround jumper over Mustang defender (photo by Russell Dearing)

Binkley is a 6-foot-5 forward whose shooting ability falls right into Sheplers spread offensive scheme. His shot-making ability often provides a much-needed “get out of jail free card” if the offense is in a jam.

Myers, on the other hand, was unexpectedly thrust into a much more substantial role after senior guard Carson Cole went down with a foot injury. Myers balanced backup ball-handling duties with junior Harris Folkes and played better than expected, giving Shepler yet another tool in his arsenal. “Every bit of experience they get at the varsity level… it’s just huge,” per Shepler. 

All year, Shepler has preached the magnitude of roles to his players, as he knows the heights they can reach as a group, especially if each individual does their job the best they can. 

The Patriots have eight games remaining, five of which are within the area and are critical to the postseason aspirations this group has.