By LEE HILLER, Journal Sports
Shreveport’s pro basketball team will tip off its 2022 season on the road at Little Rock as it did last season, starting the Mavericks’ drive for a fifth pro championship for coach Steve Tucker.
The Mavs meet the Little Rock Lightning at 7 p.m. tonight at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock.
A newly-invigorated Tucker had thoughts of retiring after last season but the last couple of months changed his mind.
“I am having fun again,” Tucker said. “There are times I am on the court (coaching) right by myself, like I used to do it, and that has made it truly a joy for me to coach again. There are no voices in my ear, I am just doing it my way.”
The Mavericks will once again play in the Central Division that had the top two teams play for The Basketball League Championship last season.
“We had a really good team a year ago and we play in a really tough division,” Tucker said. “I thought Enid was by far the best team in the league (won the championship). Houston was the second-best team and I thought we were the third-best team. We want to reverse that order and be that best team this year.”
The Mavericks return three players from last year’s team in Paul Parks, Cordarius Johnson and Dwayne Lathan.
“Paul Parks was one of the top players in the league a year ago,” Tucker said. “He averaged 25 points a game, 8 rebounds. I thought he was one of the top five players in the league, should have been on the first or second team all-league team. I think he has some proving to do and I think that is one of his goals to make sure he is recognized, but he wants our team recognized.”
Johnson, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Coushatta who played at Louisiana Tech, is back. Tucker says he is in really good shape and can play like he did back in 2016. Lathan returns after an Achilles tendon injury in the first game last year. He is fully healthy and ready to play, according to Tucker.
“The league is tougher this year. There are 44 teams around the country and I think there is a handful that can legitimately can win it, I think we’re one of those handful,” Tucker said. “We’ll have to stay healthy, stay well, and then we’ll have to have a little luck and hopefully with a little skill mixed in with that, we can do something special.”
As far as playing at Little Rock in the opener again this season coach feels his club is ready for the challenge.
“I think we are ready to go. We’ve had a really good camp, knock on wood, we’ve stayed pretty healthy,“ Tucker said. “I think we are ready for Little Rock this weekend. Little Rock loaded up for us last year and they knocked us off up there. Hopefully we can avoid that this year.”
Photo by LEE HILLER