UNION MILLS --  At South Central, they call it 'Defeat The Beast.'

A board hangs in the boys basketball coaches office that charts players' production in non-scoring categories that include assists, rebounds, steals, charge takes, deflections and floor dives.

Borrowing a page from Purdue's famed 'Play Hard' mantra, Satellites coach Joe Wagner implemented the concept before the 2017-18 season as a way to motivate his players to do the dirty work, the little things that can make a difference between winning and losing.

"It's an honor to have that," said senior Trent Smoker, who has won the award both years. "Without stuff like that, we wouldn't win games."

S.C. isn't blessed with superior physical talent, so it relies on hustle plays that don't show up in traditional statistics. A player garners a point for each category he wins during a game and the one with the most categories won is the 'Defeat the Beast' recipient.

"We didn't patent that. It's a Purdue thing," Wagner said. "The kids buy into that. It goes down to the wire. Last year, there were guys right there. We've been preaching that for two years. It's more of a mentality than anything else. We have to make sure we're all on the same page."

In an era where many coaches have developed a more player-friendly, AAU style, Wagner holds firm to his core principles.

"It's not my first option for basketball, but you've got to trust your coach," Zack Christy said. "I know he's not steering us the wrong way. It's his type of basketball. He wants to play hard-nosed, we've got to go with it. I know I've tried to get in his ear. He's a stubborn guy, I understand, I'm a stubborn guy, too. I want to get good at it. I like to get football mixed in with basketball as much as I can. I use that aggressiveness. I'm not afraid to take someone head on."

It's not a stretch for Smoker, who has largely played a blue-collar style of basketball most of his life.

"For as long as I can remember, it's what I've done," he said. "It does fit into my role on the team. I'm not really the go-to guy like Zack or Brendan (Carr). Especially last year, we really had to worry about our defensive side, the extra things other than scoring the ball because that's where we struggled."

Basketball is a game of runs and most people would agree there isn't a bigger energy builder, at least on defense, than taking a charge.

"It probably gains you the most momentum out of any turnover," Smoker said.

In his third year as coach at South Central, Wagner is slowly but surely gaining a buy-in on the old-school philosophy which, admittedly, is not for everybody.

"It's real easy because there are a lot of older guys on the team teaching the freshmen," Christy said. "It's not just coach Wagner teaching them."

"Most of us pretty much have it down," Smoker adds. "I think for the guys coming into the program, we have to (show them). Most of them aren't used to it."

The big question for the upcoming season is, can anyone wrest the plaque away from Smoker?

"I think we should put points up on the board," Christy said. "That would help me. Otherwise, Trent's got me."

Smoker doesn't intend to relinquish the honor, at least not without a battle.

"I'm going to keep it," he said.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.