Who’s Up Next?

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Head coach Wesley Button watches on from the sideline in a Bulldog game last season. PHOTO BY ROBERT NOLES / THE OBSERVER

Previewing the 2021-22 Opelika Varsity Boys’ Basketball Team

BY WIL CREWS
SPORTSCREWS@OPELIKAOBSERVER.COM

After taking charge of the Bulldogs for the back half of last season, Opelika varsity boys’ basketball coach Wesley Button is looking forward to his first (official) year at the helm of the program.

The 30-year-old has been on the Opelika basketball staff since 2015, and said he firmly believes he’s ready for this new challenge and hopes to improve on Opelika’s 4-14 record from last season.

“I definitely had to grow up a lot,” Button said. “[Becoming a head coach is] a lot more responsibility, but the school, I think they showed they believe in me, and the kids believe in me.”

This offseason, Button has had the chance to implement his own system, one that will be predicated on pace and space according to him.

“We want to get up and down that floor,” Button said. “Talk and fly around are my two rules on defense and I think we did that really well at the end of last year. We had a really good summer so I am excited for what we are going to do this year.”

Button also said his team has been working on implementing a full-court press and hopes the aggressive defense will result in easy baskets for his team.

“We like to get transition buckets,” he said. “We are going to be a pressing team. So that is what we have been working on primarily is just, you know, get out and run. I’m an Alabama fan, so you know I like Nate Oat’s offense that he is running over there.”

Despite losing three key rotation players from last year’s team, the makeup of this year’s Opelika varsity Bulldogs remains littered with experience in the form of four seniors and a plethora of juniors.

“We retuned a lot from last year,” Button said. “[The seniors last year], they were great guys, we are going to miss their experience. But last year, it being a Covid year, different guys were out and a lot of guys got experience that might not have got it.”

The fact that things are socially returning to normal is yet another reason Button said he is looking forward to 2021-22.

“It’s been really refreshing to just go and not worry about all that Covid stuff,” he said.

In terms of team leadership, Button said he will primarily be looking to three guys — not all of whom are upperclassmen. 

“Farrtavious Hardnett (a 5-foot-8-inch senior), he’s our point guard,” Button said. “He started a few games last year; played big minutes last year. Isaiah Knight (a 6-foot-2-inch junior), he played last year and he’s really come on recently. He had a great summer and has emerged as one of the more vocal leaders we got. DJ Harris (a 6-foot sophomore) only played one or two games with us on varsity last year. Had an amazing summer. He’s really been working hard and we are expecting big things from DJ last year. He’s grown up a lot.”

Additionally, Button said he is looking forward to getting some reinforcements soon, with a number of two-sport athletes joining the team once football season concludes.

 “We are excited about them,” he said. “They will bring a good physicality.”

Opelika officially begins its season on Dec. 3 with a home matchup against 7A Hewitt Trussville. Button said he hopes the Opelika community will rally behind his guys this year, starting with game one.

“Come support,” he said. “The guys are working their butts off and can’t wait for everybody to see what they have been working on. It’s going to be fun.”

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