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Game changer: Shedd shows Verbena can have basketball success

The Verbena basketball team didn’t win a single game in the 2008-09 season, coach Jonathan Shedd’s first.

In fact, the Red Devils began this season on a losing streak that stretched back to 2006.

But the Red Devils opened their campaign with a 51-37 win over Isabella, and then made even more remarkable strides.

Verbena finished the season with an 11-17 record—the first time the school’s basketball program had won more than two games since 1999—and won an area tournament game for the first time in school history.

Shedd said he was simply the beneficiary of a team that was tired of losing and willing to do whatever it took to win, but Shedd had enough to do with the team’s accomplishments to be named The Clanton Advertiser’s Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.

“They were so hungry; they were so ready,” Shedd said. “All it took was somebody caring and saying, ‘Hey, I’m serious about this, and I want ya’ll to do better than what you have.’”

One of Shedd’s initiatives was to take advantage of the state allowing teams a certain number of play dates during the summer.

“I brought them in and said we’re doing this stuff,” Shedd said, “and they said, ‘Coach, what’s a team camp?’ They had never done anything.”

Verbena went 2-15 over the summer, but the players—led by senior guards Brad Boswell and Brandon White and senior forward Jason Ray—realized they could win.

“When Coach Shedd got here, he put rules in, like you couldn’t play if you didn’t have a certain grade point average,” White said. “We didn’t even know they played basketball in the summertime, but all that hard work we put in paid off.

“He preached to us every time we played that it’s not about me or I, it’s about the team.”

So, Verbena turned into a basketball team that could win on any given night.

For example, the Devils were one of only three teams all year that held a halftime lead over eventual Class 1A state champion Edward Bell.

That’s one of several games Shedd looks back on and knows his team could have, maybe should have, won.

“But we just weren’t used to those situations, and we had to learn how to handle that,” he said.

Still, the season could be remembered as one of the best in school history—and, Shedd hopes, a season that could have a lasting effect on Verbena basketball.

“I hope it opened up a lot of eyes in the community that basketball isn’t just something to do here; we can have some success in it,” Shedd said.