Sophomore Jeffery Valentine played well enough at the guard position to earn extended playing time on the floor for the Collingswood High School boysbasketball team.
But with two seniors and sophomore standout Jordan Wallace entrenched as the starting guards, there was little room for Valentine to stay in his natural position.
So first-year head coach Patrick Dorney got creative, and moved Valentine—who is listed at 6 feet, 1 inch—to the power forward position.
Valentine may not look like a prototypical power forward, but he played like one Tuesday night, scoring a team-high 15 points in the Panthers’ 48-43 loss to Haddon Township.
Valentine was most productive in the first quarter, calling for the ball often while posting up. He scored seven points in the opening session.
“This is the first time I have ever played power forward, so I am kind of adjusting to it right now,” Valentine said. “As the season goes along I think I will adjust to it pretty well.”
Valentine found himself going up against players several inches taller than him Thursday night, and will be in a similar situation for the rest of the season. He understands that now that he is suddenly undersized for his position, he'll have to put extra emphasis on the fundamentals in the defensive end.
“Boxing out is the biggest thing,” Valentine said. “As a guard, I am usually out on the wings, but now as a big man I have to box out. If I don’t box out, it’s an offensive rebound, a put-back and I’m on the bench.”
With seniors Ryan Dick and Samir Inge set to graduate at the end of the year, Valentine could be back as a guard next season, or could do enough over the next month to show Dorney that he can succeed as a forward.
In either case, he is happy to do what he is asked.
“With this team I think I could grow into [being a forward],” Valentine said. “We don’t have many athletic big men, so I have to step up to fill that role.”
Collingswood led for much of Tuesday’s game against Haddon Township,
but was never able to stretch the lead bigger than five. The Hawks were within two at the half, and took the lead for good on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. The Panthers stayed within two possessions throughout the final eight minutes, but were unable to make enough baskets down the stretch.
“We are not making shots,” Dorney said. “It’s a labor every time down the floor to score the ball. We are defending and taking good shots most of the time.
"When you lose by two possessions, you can look back at a dozen plays where, if three of those go a different way, you win by one instead of losing by five," he said.
"In conference play, when you go on the road and play any quality opponent, it’s such a fine line between winning and losing. We are giving ourselves a chance to win, we just haven’t had those one or two guys step up and make a play in the last three or four minutes of the game.”
Dorney has seen progress from his team, even if the win-loss column has not been friendly. At 4-10, the Panthers are just a few plays here and there from being much more competitive.
“I think they are starting to understand that you can’t do it individually,” Dorney said. “In the game of basketball, you have to play with five. Defensively, there are going to be nights where a guy can’t guard his man one-on-one and he needs his teammates to be there to help.
"It’s the same thing on the offensive side," he said. "Instead of going to the hoop and trying to make a seven-point play, they are starting to realize that if they just run something, get a teammate open, get someone else making a play, we can be successful.”