You had my curiosity. Now you have my attention.

Published 7:28 pm Friday, January 20, 2017

Bear Bryant once said that offense sells tickets, but it’s defense that wins championships.

But the Greenville varsity boys basketball team’s defense has been as exciting to watch as any offense I’ve seen this season.  If you aren’t watching them this season, you need to change that.  Now, preferably.

From one year to the next, this is one of the most improved teams I’ve ever seen, and what makes it truly impressive is that the Tigers were by no means a poor team in the 2015-2016 season.

Greenville finished 12-9 overall last season on the heels of losing a large number of seniors from 2014’s stellar 26-6 season, which ended a single game shy of a trip to Birmingham.

And though playoff success eluded the Tigers a year ago, it would take nothing short of an act of God for that to be the case this season.

This year’s team, 11-3 at the time of this writing and 2-0 in region play, are a fundamentally different team despite sharing a number of similarities—including a few integral members of the roster.

Charles Warren still has one of the purest jump shots in the tri-county area, and Tyler Stone is still one of the hardest-working two-way players on the court, though both have added a great deal of physicality to their game this season.  Watching them evolve on the court before my eyes has been a real treat.

But there are some important differences in the Tigers team from one year to the next, too.

For starters, first-year head coach Stu Stuedeman and his coaching staff has been an explosive catalyst for success.

Six months ago, Coach Stu told me told me that the Tigers “were going to start guarding teams when they got off the bus.”

He wasn’t lying.

The Tigers are aggressive on defense that I occasionally worry that they’ll block each other’s shots out of sheer habit.

Greenville’s suffocating defense is like a frenzy of sharks in bloody water, and what’s more is that their intensity as a unit is completely independent of the score or shot clock. 

They play hard not because they’re behind, but because it’s all they know.

They’re fun to watch on the other end of the court, too.  Charles Warren’s aforementioned shooting form is a sight to behold. Romontez Rhodes’ no-look passes might go unnoticed by opposing defenses, but they’re pretty impressive from the sidelines.

Malik Bunch, Tyrone Ingram and Jeremiah Owens have been relentless on offensive boards all year long.

I know I may have missed some players, but I’ve got to end this column at some point.  I could do this all day.

Basically, this was all a roundabout way to say that the Greenville Tigers have grown from a team that needs the attention of our community to one that completely and utterly commands it. 

As many teams in the region are slowly realizing, ignore them at your own peril.