EAST ST. LOUIS — While some coaches dream of having depth, East St. Louis is swimming in it under first-year coach Tony Young.
Young, a former assistant coach at St. Louis University, has as many as 13 players he expects to use on the varsity level.
"I'm hoping to play 12, 13 guys," said Young, who isn't concerned that continuity will be an issue with such a deep bench. "If everybody comes in and plays the way I ask them to play, then chemistry won't be a problem at all.
"We all run the same stuff in practice. I mix teams up, competitively, in practice every day, so it's not like ... the starting five play on the same team every day. I always try to get guys playing with different guys."
Young, who played at Schaumburg High near Chicago and at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, took over for Ray Coleman. East Side finished 24-9 overall and 10-4 in the Southwestern Conference last year.
East St. Louis lost its season opener on Tuesday, 71-70 to Springfield Southeast in the Decatur Turkey Tournament at Millikin University. The Flyers' next game in the tournament is at 1 p.m. Friday against Peoria. The tourney concludes Saturday.
The Flyers return Division I prospect Deshawn Munson, a 6-foot-4 senior who averaged 19.7 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. Munson has loads of ability, and Young's job is to keep him on the straight and narrow as Munson continues to develop.
"Deshawn needs somebody who's going to come in and be completely honest with him and explain to him how things are in the real world," Young said. "That's how I try to approach every situation with him: 'If this is what you want to be, this is what you have to do. If this is where you want to go, these are the things that need to be done. If you want to be the best player in the area, this is how hard you have to work.'
"He's buying into it."
Young said Munson has few weaknesses, although he added: "He can be so much better."
"The kid can do pretty much anything you ask him except for maybe hit a ton of 3s," Young said. "But he can defend if you make him, he can pass the ball --he's a very good passer --he's very tough to guard, he has a great handle on the ball. He's a one-stop shop for a lot of stuff, especially at the high-school level."
Munson did not start Tuesday, as Young went with a lineup of 6-4 senior Cedric Washington, 5-9 junior Justin Smith, 5-8 senior Michael Scott, 6-6 senior Joseph Cook and 6-4 senior Johnny McCray, who averaged 5.5 points and four rebounds last season.
"It's not about who starts the game, it's who finishes it," Young said. "I'm still learning my players."
Other players on Young's roster are: Darrion Beane, a 6-2 junior; Terry Beckner, a 6-5, 250-pound sophomore; Devion Falls, a 5-9 senior; 5-9 sophomore Antonio "Duke" Johnson; 6-1 junior Walter Holden; 6-2 senior Demmus Jones; 6-1 senior Travon McCray, a transfer from Cahokia; 6-4 senior Lavar Phiffer; 6-3 senior Dan Williams; and 6-6 senior Antonio Stewart.
Young said some in that group will receive the majority of their playing time at the junior-varsity level.
Young likes the potential of Beckner, and he also believes Washington can provide some offense in the paint.
"I'm a huge believer that you've got to be able throw the ball in the post to make everything else work," Young said. "And you've got to be able to have guys who want to defend."
Young said the Flyers could go far if players accept their responsibilities and try to stay within themselves.
"We have to have a team full of guys that are willing to play a role on the team," Young said. "Everybody can't be the superstar, and that's the hardest thing to get kids to understand in high school. If you play that small role on this team, at the end of the day it will make a huge impact. And I tell my kids all the time, if you want to be noticed, win games."
Young believes East St. Louis can win its share. He's heard about Edwardsville and Belleville East being the favorites to win the conference, but he isn't willing to concede this early.
"I would say we're at the top of the conference," Young said. "(But) we haven't won anything yet. We haven't beaten anybody yet and we haven't lost to anybody yet in the conference, either.
"My goal is to get better game by game. That's my biggest expectation right now. If we focus on getting better each game, anything we possibly could have expected, we'll probably go far and beyond that."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2665.