Driver leads Panthers to overcome rocky start

Published 9:26 am Saturday, January 15, 2022

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By Greg Hollis/ Special to the Advertiser

Ronnie Driver’s first season as Jemison High School boys varsity basketball head coach has had a bit of a rocky start. However, Driver is looking toward a smoother finish through momentum built by some recent wins.

Driver took over the coaching position early in the summer of 2021. Driver’s high hopes for the squad were quickly met with adversity before the season even started. Driver came to the Panthers with more than 12 years of coaching experience as a head coach and assistant. Driver previously served as the head coach for the 2020-2021 basketball season at Cornerstone High School in Birmingham.

The team has had a lot to overcome in Driver’s first season. At the start of summer workouts, the team was already two weeks behind other schools in the area. Driver also mentioned that he did not know his full roster because he could not hold an official tryout for the team until the first week of October. That time is critical because other head coaches with established programs are in the middle of preseason training camp. The team also had two of their top players get injured as members of Jemison varsity football. Harrison Hilyer, the team’s leading scorer, battled with injuries this season as well. Hilyer has played in only about 40% of the games this season. Driver knew it was going to be a challenge when he took this job, but he was up for the challenge.

“I was excited for a chance to move up and coach at a higher level,” Driver said. “I knew it was going to be a challenge but I love challenges and I wanted to be the one that got them (Jemison) over the hump.”

After an 0-15 start for the Jemison Panthers, they have won three of their next five games with two of those wins coming back-to-back in a midseason tournament. The Panthers have shown promise and look to turn things around in the “third quarter of the season”, as Driver calls it.

“I break the season into four quarters like a game,” Driver said. “We didn’t do what we needed to do in the first two quarters, but we still have the whole second half to get it together. I told my guys not to worry about the win-loss column lets control what we can control and win the games we need to win.”

Driver and his Panthers have a tough hill to climb to make the area tournament and possibly qualify for the state playoffs. Driver is remaining optimistic and continues to push his team to the finish line.