Prep Basketball: Change is nothing new to Garrard County's Clayton Ray
Garrard County junior Clayton Ray (12) likes the faster pace his team is using this season and is averaging 10.1 points per game. He had a career-high 25 points against East Jessamine earlier this season. (Clay Jackson / January 7, 2013)
The Golden Lions have another new coach — their sixth in five years and their third in Ray’s three high school seasons — and that means another adjustment period as they learn a new system and what their coach expects from them.
Garrard has picked up the pace in its first year under Dennis Pardue, and Ray said he likes the way the Lions are playing.
“I like to get out and run. It gives you more freedom. And playing defense, I like to get down and play hard. I think everybody else agrees with it, too,” Ray said.
This is Ray’s second season as a starter, and the 6-1 junior guard continues to progress. He was the Lions’ second-leading scorer last season at 8.1 points per game, and this year he is averaging 10.1 points through 15 games, ranking second on the team once again.
Ray is one of the Lions’ outside shooting threats, and he said he is comfortable shooting from the perimeter.
“I can hit perimeter shots a little better than I can a pull-up jumper,” he laughed and said.
Ray hit the ground running when the season started, averaging 17.7 points in Garrard’s first three games and scoring a career-high 25 points in the second of those games, a Dec. 1 loss to East Jessamine.
He has leveled off since then, but he has scored in double figures in nine of the Lions’ 15 games.
“If I can hit the first one I can get into it, and then get my teammates the ball if I can get them open,” he said.
However, he said he thinks his greatest improvement this season has been on the other end of the floor.
“I think I’ve improved on getting to the basket a little better, but it’s mainly defense,” he said. “I’ve been working on my defensive game through individual drills and stuff like that.”
He said Pardue’s new system emphasizes going hard on defense as well as on offense, and he said the biggest change for the Lions this season is their pace of play.
“Just getting out and running, running the floor hard, getting after it on defense,” he said.
Success has come infrequently for Garrard (3-12), though five of its losses have been by 10 points or less.
“We started out pretty strong and went through a little slump, about three games, four games, and picked our defense back up and started playing a little bit better,” Ray said. “We’ve just got to execute a little bit better.”
Ray noted that a handful of freshmen are starting to make more significant contributions for the Lions, and he said that could help them get untracked in the second half of the season.
“We have freshmen coming along, they’re playing good, they’re starting to contribute,” he said. “They’re playing strong. if they keep that up, I think we’ll be good by the end of the year.”