Jul. 22—HENDERSON — Crossroads Christian has bolstered its already strong men's basketball foundation with the hiring of Jacob Savage and Rod Williams to lead the middle school and junior varsity teams, respectively.
Savage has seen what the men's basketball team at Crossroads has accomplished in three years under head coach Scottie Richardson and is determined to help prepare the next generation of players for success at the varsity level.
"Scottie had me come to a couple of open gyms and see a few players," Savage said. "I know them from teaching but this is a whole different side where you get to see the kids on the court. I think we've really got a promising year in front of us."
Savage brings plenty of basketball experience to the Crossroads middle school team, having coached church league, summer camp and recreational league teams before joining Cresset Christian to lead their varsity men's team.
In 2019, Savage joined Richardson's staff as an assistant to the varsity team but he temporarily stepped away from the program during the 2020-21 season to spend more time with his family during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Savage admitted that being away from the sideline for a year helped reinvigorate his passion for basketball and is hoping to pass that quality down to his middle school players as they pursue a title in Savage's first year.
"I'm usually pretty intense with the guys but they respond well to that typically," Savage said. "If I can match their level of passion and enthusiasm, then you can experience a bunch of awesome growth as a team with everyone chasing excellence."
The ultimate goal for Savage is to have Crossroads' middle school team serve as a funnel through the junior varsity program and into the varsity team, where they will already have the necessary knowledge and fundamentals to immediately contribute.
A part of that mission will involve working alongside Williams as he develops the junior varsity players. Williams knows that the players under his guidance will have the potential to excel at the varsity level and is excited to be a part of Richardson's vibrant basketball culture at Crossroads.
"This is such a great opportunity," Williams said. "I've been talking to Scottie for a while and he had a position open here [at Crossroads]. I'm going to be learning from a great leader in Scottie. He's been watching me since I was in middle school and it's cool to be in the same system as his."
Prior to joining Crossroads, Williams worked as a boys basketball coach at Mary Potter Middle School in Oxford before spending the last two years as an assistant to Paul White on J.F. Webb High School's women's varsity program.
Williams has also stayed busy outside of high school athletics through his AAU program in Next Level Prospects Basketball 204, which is an AAU program that features 10 different teams and travels around the United States to provide student athletes an opportunity to showcase their talent in front of scouts and other coaches.
With his past experience guiding young players to the next level, Williams is setting high expectations for the Crossroads junior varsity team ahead of the 2021-22 season so that they can fully understand the values and techniques that go into Richardson's up-tempo system at the varsity level.
"I like to run and gun," Williams said. "I'm very passionate about basketball and I coach how I play. I'm pretty similar to Scottie in a lot of ways and sometimes we even say the same stuff. I want the JV team to be a feeder for the varsity guys because once those kids go out the door, mine are up next and they need to be ready."
The amount of expertise provided by Williams and Savage was something that Richardson had been searching for with the junior varsity and middle school teams and believes that each coach's respective leadership skills will put the varsity program in a great position to thrive over the next several years.
"As a basketball coach, this is probably the best staff I've had in 27 years," Richardson said. "That's no slight to anyone who's coached under me but as a collective group, we have about 50 years of experience that we'll be able to pour into these kids from grades 5-12."
Richardson added that Williams and Savage were perfect candidates for their positions because of the amount of care they show for their players, which he said is a crucial part of the family-like culture he has been trying to build at Crossroads.
While Richardson anticipates some learning curves as Williams and Savage get adjusted and implement their styles of coaching, he fully expects the junior varsity and middle school teams to start producing efficient leaders inside the basketball program both on and off the court.
"What we're trying to instill here is kids wanting to be the best wherever they go," Richardson said. "We talk a lot about the three B's, which are bibles, books and basketball. The goal is to keep that priority list in order and God has blessed us with having these men here. Rod and Jacob both understand the responsibility that's been given to them with these kids."
Williams and Savage expect their teams to deal with plenty of stiff competition this year but both of them are ready to start working with their players and continue building upon a culture at Crossroads that has produced players like Taylor Bell and Zach Murphy.
"One thing I've learned from Scottie is how to be a proponent for the player," Savage said. "Even when I was an opposing athletic director, I watched him fight for kids, so I'm excited to adopt that and jump into a program where the kids know that they are cared for and that we the coaches will help them find success."