England Boys Basketball head coach Trent Morgan considers himself extremely blessed to win a state championship in his first season as a head coach.
“I have been lucky enough to learn the game from some great coaches who prepared me for this moment,” said Morgan, who is in his second year at England. “I know coaches who have coached for years and never got to win [a state championship].
“So winning it with that group of kids was so surreal. I will always remember that moment. I even got myself a replica of the state-championship trophy to take home. That’s how special winning a state title is for a little kid who grew up in Gould.”
Morgan said winning a state championship is special, especially for a town like England. England won state championships in boys basketball in 2015, 2019 and 2020. Morgan said winning three state titles in five years speaks volumes for the program.
“All three of those teams had three different head coaches,” Morgan said, “so it’s definitely about the kids here in England.
“We have some outstanding athletes who work incredibly hard for me, and I am so blessed to be leading this group.”
Returning this year are Jamal Shorty, who averaged 11 points and 5 rebounds per game last season, and Traejon Blake, who had 9 points, 8 assists and 2 steals per game.
“Traejon provides that experience at the guard spot,” Morgan said. “He has been on the varsity since his freshman year. He takes care of the basketball. He can score on all three levels.
“He also brings that senior leadership that is much needed.”
Blake has committed to playing baseball for the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Shorty led England in 3-pointers last season. Morgan said Shorty has gotten bigger and stronger this summer, so he will be able to play inside, as well as outside.
“He has added parts to his game that will make him a dual-threat offensive player,” Morgan said.
Leading up to last year’s state-championship game, Morgan said, he recalls getting so many texts and phone calls — to the point that he had to turn his phone off — because people wanted to know if England would even get to play, due to COVID-19.
“I am so grateful and blessed that we got to play that game and earn our championship,” Morgan said, “taking nothing away from the other teams because the circumstances were out of their control.”
The coach said that this year, England will have to play basketball at a high level every single night on both ends of the floor, if the team wants to match its success from last season. Last winter, England gave up only 48 points per game in the state tournament.
“We have to be able to defend at a high rate if we want to be as successful as we were last season,” Morgan said.
The coach said Ahmad Courtney is a long athletic forward who can play both ends of the floor.
“He is really athletic, is one of our best players inside and will provide much-needed scoring inside with the departure of Tamarous Dodson,” Morgan said. “Keaton Green is another inside threat.
“He played a lot off the bench as a sophomore, and he will provide a lot of rebounding, as well as scoring.”
Morgan said Green will be able to guard the post at a high level.
Sophomore Demario Carter, who is very athletic and skilled, can score the basketball on all three levels, Morgan said.
“We look for him to be a difference-maker in games this year on both ends of the floor,” the coach said.
Prior to being head coach, Morgan spent two seasons as one of England’s assistant coaches, and he said this is the biggest team England has had in his time.
“So our size should be a problem for some teams,” he said, “but we are only bringing back two starters from last year, so hopefully, Jamal and Traejon can be leaders for us this year.”
He said both games against conference opponent Marianna should be interesting. Marianna returns two of its top players from last season’s Final Four team. Morgan said Marianna is well coached and “brings back some really good players as well.”
England will play at county rival Lonoke on Feb. 19 and will host Earle on Dec. 2. Morgan said England and Lonoke haven’t played in a few years, so he is happy to renew the series with the team.
“This game will be jam-packed and will be a must-see,” Morgan said. “Every time we play Earle, it is an automatic classic game to watch.
“We have so much respect for Coach Miller and his program. Luckily, this is a home game for us.”
England has a tough nonconfernce schedule, including games against White Hall, McGehee and Stuttgart. Morgan said the game against Clarendon will be a tough game as well. England hasn’t played Clarendon since the 2019 state-title game.
“I am sure a lot of fans will come out for this one,” he said.
The coach said England has a mixed group in terms of experience, and he looks for this team to play really fast, but under control on offense. He said that defensively, he wants to play really hard and consistent.
“We have some good young student-athletes in our program,” Morgan said. “I would like to recognize them for their hard work. Our junior high program has some tremendous student athletes. I am really looking forward to coaching them for years to come.”