By JOEL COLEMAN
The old saying says you can't judge a book by its cover.
Likewise, East Oktibbeha boys basketball coach Barnett Robinson insists it's impossible to make a judgement about the Titans based around their 72-39 summer league loss to West Lowndes on Tuesday at the Starkville Sportsplex.
So while the casual observer might look at East Oktibbeha's lopsided defeat as an omen of bad things to come for the Titans in the 2011-12 season, Robinson says his club is right about where they should be.
"Sure, we missed a lot of shots (Tuesday) and didn't box out and didn't rebound worth nothing," said Robinson. "But we just use summer league as a way of letting the guys jell and come together. We haven't put any plays in, we haven't went over our defense, we haven't done any of that yet."
Robinson plans to begin refining his team next month in anticipation of pushing the Titans towards a Class A championship.
The past two seasons, East Oktibbeha has just narrowly missed out on a trip to the Mississippi Coliseum in Jackson, coming just one win shy of paying a visit to the "Big House" both years.
While the Titans won't have the services of standout guard Casey Neal next season due to graduation, Robinson says his club will be built around many of the same individuals that pushed East Oktibbeha to the brink of glory one season ago.
That fact alone has Robinson extremely optimistic.
"We've got a pretty experienced group coming back," said Robinson. "Like I tell the guys, we have advanced each year that I've been at East Oktibbeha. Our next step is to get to Jackson and with the experience that we've got coming back, I'm looking for us to be in Jackson playing for a state championship."
Robinson understands there's still plenty of work to be done for the Titans to reach their ultimate goal.
According to Robinson, that work starts with developing the toughness required to haul in critical boards.
"We've got to box out and rebound," says Robinson. "That's the most important thing we've got to work on. We've got to just drill it and drill it and drill it."
Though his team's rebounding ability has Robinson a bit concerned, the leader of the Titans has been very impressed with East Oktibbeha's ability to put points on the board this summer.
"I see that we can really score," said Robinson. "Even the young guys, they can really score."
Robinson hopes that trend can hold up into the winter and that the Titans can solidify the remaining parts of their game to be in contention for a championship.
Yet Robinson knows it will be anything but easy. Add to the equation Robinson's new role as head girls coach, and it seems as though it will be a difficult task to guide two different teams to success.
Robinson, however, isn't concerned, saying that being the Lady Titans coach may only help to improve both teams.
"We'll just have the girls playing against the boys," said Robinson. "We'll be putting them all in there together and let them get at it."