Pigeon Forge boys basketball team poised for big year

Nov. 18, 2013 @ 01:51 PM

Judge this Pigeon Forge team by last season’s record at your own peril.

New coach John Kucela said he thinks this year’s Tigers will surprise some people.

“The kids are hard-nosed,” Kucela said. “They work hard. I think they’re hungry. They want to go out and leave their mark on the program.”

Pigeon Forge has seven seniors back from last year’s 7-21 squad, including star Trevor Jain, who, at 6-foot-4, Kucela believes can play in college. That experience and familiarity should help the Tigers rack up some wins this winter. The coach said the key for his new team will be winning close ones.

“Last year was pretty rough,” Jain said. “We’ve been out there working real hard this offseason. I feel like we can come back and be a pretty good team this year. We got a change of coaches, new culture. We’re going to get it together.”

Jain’s game is complemented by point guard Nate Marine, Peyton Marshall, Anthony Shular, Jake Kingery, Cade Dudley and Skyler Gibbons. That group showed what it could do when Jain was out with a concussion this summer during a camp in Milledgeville, Ga. The Tigers were playing a team from Atlanta Kucela compared to Fulton that had beaten them earlier in the camp. Dudley filled in for Jain that day and Pigeon Forge led the whole game before losing on the final shot.

“I think that was a big turning point for our team,” Kucela said. “I thought that was a big lift, big boost for morale and confidence in the guys. That gave me a boost as far as a coach.”

After that seasoned senior class, the Tigers have some decent underclassmen as well. Kucela said Ryan Beal has really come on. The junior can dunk with two hands now and is almost as tall as Jain. Kucela’s also waiting for the return of football players still competing in that sport’s postseason. That includes junior Kolby Black, who will further bolster the Tigers at the guard position.

Like many teams at this time of the year, the Tigers just need to be consistent. Jain said he and his teammates still go through spurts where they turn the ball over too much. But the flashes of potential are there, too. Kucela said he was boosted by what he saw this summer at that camp in Georgia. He said the Tigers competed in every game they played and could’ve won all the games they lost. They weren’t blown out.

If the seniors want their final season to be a successful one, they’ll have to keep performing like that.

“We know this is our last year and we have to succeed,” Jain said. “We’ve had three other years that weren’t that great. ... It puts pressure on us to perform well.”