SMYRNA — Elisha Gregory has no interest in being that guy who takes too many shots.
But he also realizes, as a senior, it’s sometimes his job to shoot first and pass second.
“I think that’s the hardest part for me,” said the Smyrna High guard/forward. “I’m a pass first player. I like getting my teammates looks.
“My coach has to tell me to learn how to be a little more selfish in a way.”
Gregory’s continuing development as both a leader and a scorer is one of the reasons coach Andrew Mears is still optimistic about this Eagles’ boys’ basketball team, despite a slow start to the season.
A year after reaching the DIAA state championship game for the third time in the last five seasons, Smyrna is only 1-2 right now. The Eagles are slated to host Henlopen North rival Caesar Rodney today at 7 p.m. in their first game since Dec. 22.
They still have 16 regular-season games in front of them.
Smyrna had four players join the squad late after the Eagles reached the state championship game in Class 3A football. That contest was played on Dec. 11.
“We have to understand that we might not be at our best in December,” said Mears. “But we want to be hitting our stride come late February.
“From them (the football players) getting up to speed with everything that we’re trying to do ... that’s been the challenge. We haven’t really put together the resume of what this group is capable of.”
Smyrna finished 19-1 last winter, with its only loss a 51-45 setback to Sanford in the state finals. The Eagles graduated first-team All-Henlopen North players Olumuyia Salako and Elijah Credle from a squad that also won the Henlopen Conference title.
But Smyrna has a core group of seniors in Gregory, Devin DeMoe and Majesti Carter to build around.
Mears said Gregory has worked hard to make himself one of the Eagles’ top players.
“He does everything for us, with the biggest quality about him being his leadership,” said Mears. “I think he’s developed that from watching last year’s group and seeing what it takes from a leadership perspective. He knows it kind of starts with him.
“He’s taken that on his shoulders. Obviously we’re leaning on him for production but also on the leadership side of things.”
Even last season, the 6-foot-4 Gregory said he knew there would be more expected from him this winter. He tried to prepare himself to take on a bigger role.
As a captain, Gregory sees himself as the link between Mears and the rest of the players.
“I have to basically voice what my coach is saying to my teammates — in a more productive way than what he might say it in sometimes,” said Gregory, who netted 21 points in Smyrna’s 48-44 loss to Caravel on Dec. 22. “My teammates always encouraged me to be more vocal. Now I see why they did it.
“Some days I have to push myself. Ever since I’ve been in high school, I’ve kind of been like the little brother. I always had a leader. Now I’ve got to be that leader and help the younger guys.”
Even with just two losses, Smyrna already has more losses than it had all last season. The Eagles’ 61-49 setback against Polytech on Dec. 17 ended a 20-game Henlopen North winning streak.
Gregory didn’t play in the contest because of a minor injury.
Even though this is a much different team, Gregory said the Eagles are still motivated by coming so close to a state title last March.
“Every day,” he said. “That’s what makes us go harder.
“We lost a lot but we gained a lot, too,” Gregory added. “We’re young and hungry. We want to win, we want to be better for each other. I think that’s big for us.
After having two games canceled at the Governor’s Challenge over the holiday break, Mears said his players are just excited to get back on the court.
It feels like they’ve been stuck with their 1-2 record for a while now.
“They just want to get in the gym with a basketball,” said Mears. “I tend to over-think things and these guys just want to play. I’m trying to channel their focus. Nobody’s panicking.”