— Story by Taylor Kennedy
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fairmont Senior’s senior forward Jaelin Johnson and the Polar Bears reached the Class AA Region 1 co-finals a season ago with a 12-12 record.
“They are working hard,” said the 6-4 senior on this year’s team. “Our team is a lot different than any other year that I played here. I feel like we have a great team this year. Our practices have gone well. We are shooting the ball well, moving the ball efficiently, and I think this year will be a great year for us. We need to stay on the right track, and not fall off the track.”
Players and coaches have been in the gym together for the last four weeks. They had the extra week before the season for conditioning purposes.
“They have been intense,” said Johnson of their practices so far. “We have been working hard. We are trying to get everything down together before our first game on Saturday. We are just putting everything together and trying to find the groove.
“I have been working on reading the floor and trying to find open guys,” stated Johnson on what he has been working on this offseason. “I have been working on my mid-range pull-up. Teams are going to try and take me out of scoring around the basket. My mid-range and outside shot have improved.”
Johnson finished last season averaging 20 points per game on 56% shooting from the field.
There remain unknown answers to how the season will go this year. A game or multiple games could be canceled for numerous teams this season. Players remain in a positive mindset despite everything surrounding the upcoming season.
“Taking it one day at a time,” noted Johnson of his mind this season. “We cannot change what is happening. It is not in our hands. The only thing we can take advantage of is going out there and practicing, playing, and getting our work in.
“I am going to keep working every day until I am told otherwise. That is just going to be me. Going out there and working until I get stopped basically.”
There are three seniors on this year’s Polar Bears team. There are also six underclassmen, including five sophomores. Underclassmen are always anxious to try and compete for playing time.
“Just keep working,” said Johnson of his message to the younger guys. “You cannot change what the coach’s lineup is. You gotta work and find your spot on the team, and you get to know your role on the team. Different players have different roles. If you know your role, you fit your role, and you play your role on the team then you can help the team. You have to work out and listen to the coach.”
Johnson has been able to learn valuable tips from playing with former Fairmont Senior players like Jalen Bridges and Zyon Dobbs. That information has been beneficial for him these last few years.
“They were hard-working guys and it showed in their play,” stated Johnson of the former talent. “I like to be a little more vocal to my team than they were to me. They taught me to keep going at it. The way that they played and their work ethic taught me a lot. How they succeed in their college experiences has taught me that with hard work you can do it.”
Head coach Dave Retton will be going into his 24th season with the Polar Bears, and this season will be unlike anything he has ever encountered before. He has had to be a positive influence for his guys since the season was expected to start last November.
“He has been helpful,” said Johnson of how much of a help Retton has been lately. “We kept in contact, and he kept encouraging and telling me to stay ready. The only thing we can do is be ready for when the time comes. We talked about the team, and he did his part and we did our part. We were working out, and he was preparing for the season. It was something that worked out together.”
Fairmont Senior will kick off its season on Saturday on the road against rival Bridgeport.