All-County Basketball: East Rowan's Ledbetter is boys coach of the year
By Ronnie Gallagher
GRANITE QUARRY — When Trey Ledbetter took over the East Rowan boys basketball program two years ago, the team was coming off a 2-19 season.
His first year as a head coach was worse: 1-20.
And considering the same players were returning this season, another 1-20 campaign wasn’t out of the question.
“I was hearing it all over the place,” Ledbetter said. “I’d relay that message to the kids and we used it for motivation.”
Still, East started 0-3 and 1-4. But then, something amazing happened. Those players, who lost as juniors, suddenly stunned the community with a seven-game winning streak.
The Mustangs finished 13-12.
That’s a 12-win swing in one season and made the choice for the 2012 Rowan County Coach of the Year an easy one.
“I tried to look at the positives from 1-20,” Ledbetter said. “The biggest was that everybody was coming back.”
Ledbetter talked about three turning points, and ironically, the first was a 31-point loss to Concord.
“The looks on their faces in the locker room said, ‘We’re not going down this road again,’ ” Ledbetter said. “After losing to Salisbury by three, Jordan Shepherd came up to me and said, “We’ve got this, Coach.’ ”
The next turning point was a resounding 60-41 win over Northwest Cabarrus, which was a preseason contender in the South Piedmont Conference.
“The kids were like, ‘Maybe we’ve got something here,’ ” Ledbetter remembered.
That win improved the Mustangs to 3-4 and they were rolling. Carson went down. Then West Iredell. Then West Rowan, North Iredell and Carson again.
The Mustangs were 8-4 and everyone was enjoying it.
When East Rowan beat Mike Gurley’s West team for a second time in the Moir Christmas Classic, Ledbetter, who played for East before graduating in 2001, knew his team had arrived.
“It was the first time as a player or coach that I had ever beaten a Gurley-coached team,” Ledbetter said.
East also gave North Rowan, the county’s best team, a run, cutting an 11-point lead to two before losing 53-38.
Ledbetter gives all the credit to the senior group of Shepherd, Roby Holmes, Jared Hough, Hakeem Gittens and Weston Rogers. They bought in to a deliberate offensive style that worked.
“If the ball was in our possession and not the other team’s, we had a better chance to win,” Ledbetter reasoned. “It’s funny how kids mature from their junior to their senior year, mentally and physically.”
Besides his seniors, Ledbetter also pointed to assistant Rick Roseman, who, early in the season, noticed little things like not sprinting back to the paint. When the Mustangs did, they began winning.
“He is so respected,” Ledbetter said of Roseman. “When he says he’s done, it’s going to be hard for me to keep coaching.”
Don’t expect either Ledbetter or Roseman to give it up any time soon. At East Rowan, basketball is fun again.
“Once you get the feeling of winning and what it tastes like, you don’t want to get rid of it,” Ledbetter smiled.