Darlington basketball

Darlington coach Nathan West (right) talks with Marcus Mumber during Saturday’s game against Model in the Big Blue Classic. West is in his first season as head coach for the boys’ basketball team.

Every team that wants to be successful needs a leader.

First-year Darlington boys’ basketball coach Nathan West is looking for that leader.

The Tigers are off to a 3-7 start to the season, and with a young and inexperienced team, West says he needs a player to step up into that role.

“That’s one thing we’re missing,” West said. “When you’re trying to change a culture, you’ve got to have a good leader, and we don’t have one right now. I’ve challenged them every game, every practice to try to find those guys. I think we’ve got some guys on the team that other kids look up to, but they’re not taking over the leadership that we need them to take over.”

The Tigers dropped four of their first five games, and after losing some key players from last year’s squad, the team is back to square one.

“We don’t play very hard right now,” West said. “We’re not bought into what we’re trying to do. We’re not playing to what we’re coached to do, so right now, we’re trying to get some buy-in out of some guys — new coach, new system, new expectations. It’s kind of a struggle right now.”

The coach is no stranger to success in his previous coaching endeavor. West led Franklin County High School in Eastpoint, Florida, to a 20-9 record this past season and a spot in the semifinals of the state playoffs. He accumulated a record of 33-26 over his two years as head coach.

“Coming in here, obviously Darlington presents a lot of opportunities athletically to develop some good players, and I think we’ve got the kids and the program that can bring that toughness and that grit and compete,” West said. “I just hope to bring in a winning, championship culture here, but at the same time, it’s a process and it takes time. I know that and the kids understand that.”

There’s been bright spots for the Tigers. West noted a 48-45 home win against McCallie (Tenn.) earlier this month as a highlight.

However, the Tigers followed that up with with two straight losses in the Seven Hills Rotary/Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament, including a 54-52 overtime loss to Woodland.

“I know what we’re capable of doing,” West said. “I know what we can do. We’ve shown that. Then we turn around and just lay an egg. We just don’t play hard. We don’t get after it. We don’t have that same intensity on the bench, and we don’t have it on the court.”

Also in the Tigers’ favor is a 2-1 record in Region 6-A/A after wins against Bowdon and Gordon Lee. According to West, as long as the Tigers can find a way to maintain a level of intensity, he expects his team to be competitive in the region.

“If we’re going to make a run in our region, we’ve got to have that every night,” West said. “If we bring that mindset every game, I like our chances in our region. There’s some really good teams and some really well-coached teams. In order for us to compete in the region, we’ve got to bring a different aspect and we’ve got to out-play guys.”

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