Jenkins wants to toughen up Valley boys basketball

Monday, November 27, 2023 | 8:04 PM

When Ed Jenkins learned of the boys basketball coach opening at Valley in August, he became intrigued. Serving as an assistant for the first-year staff of the Valley football program, he thought, why not build some continuity across the two programs?

Looking to use a similar message and voice, Jenkins wants to build a culture for a Valley boys basketball team that has not materialized a winning season in five years.

“We’ve got to lay the foundation based on hard work and accountability,” Jenkins said. “Those are the things we are preaching right now is being responsible for our efforts every day.”

That newly minted mentality is being developed in the gym through tough and physical practices.

“We try to create as difficult of an environment as possible for our athletes,” Jenkins said. “That’s ultimately who we want to become. We want to become a very difficult team to play against. We want to be able to defend and make our opponents work to score.”

As the Vikings work towards the new identity for the program, returning seniors Jacob Staraniec and Keyziyah Clay have led the way.

“Those two guys really do get vocal during practice and in workouts,” Jenkins said. “They do a good job at staying positive. I think it’s critical to our success as a new program to identify those guys in the locker room and that they do their job in that respect.”

When talking about Clay, Jenkins praised his veteran leadership and knows it will be valuable to a team that has struggled after only winning two section games a year ago.

“He’s the guy that brings the experience factor. He understands the game on a good level,” Jenkins said. “He’s the guy that is a voice of reason in the locker room, so we are looking for him to really rally the troops for us in tough times.”

On the floor, Staraniec will facilitate the offense this season as the Vikings’ point guard.

“Jacob is going to run the point for us, and we are really comfortable with him handling the ball and getting us into our offensive sets,” Jenkins said.

Also returning to the starting lineup is sophomore Tayshawn Hawkins, whom Jenkins believes will play numerous roles this season for Valley.

“He’s our most versatile player,” he said. “He can play the off guard and also can bump down to the power forward position when needed.”

Junior Mickael Allen, who missed a chunk of last year because of injury, and sophomore Jaden Wall look to make up the rest of the starting lineup.

Jenkins also points to several freshman who could see extended minutes including Julian Danko, Dominic Dunkel and Roman D’Argon.

D’Argon, who primarily will be a power forward, is the perfect example of the football-basketball cross-pollination after spending the fall on the gridiron.

“He’s a freshman, but he has an upperclassmen’s mentality when it comes to competition,” Jenkins said. “He’s a very competitive individual that makes it very difficult on the upperclassman during practice. He pushes everybody.”

After time to transition into a new culture, the Vikings will get ready to embark on a new season and prepare for another tough season in section play, which includes the Class 3A defending champion, Deer Lakes.

Valley boys at a glance

Coach: Ed Jenkins

Last year’s record: 4-18, 2-10 Section 3-3A

Returning starters: Jacob Staraniec (Sr., G), Keyziyah Clay (Sr., F), Tayshawn Hawkins (So., G)

Top newcomers: Roman D’Argon (Fr., F), Dominic Dunkel (Fr., G)


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