Jacob Bergman arrived at Smith-Cotton this season knowing he would need to learn how to play with new teammates, for a new coach and in a new system.
“I came in hoping to play my role as a post player and hoping to make my presence felt,” he said. “I’ve been doing my best, trying to do what coach tells us to do and work hard.”
Bergman, a 6-6 junior center, played for Applewood Christian last year before joining the Tigers and earning a spot in the starting lineup at Smith-Cotton. He said his Tiger teammates helped ease the transition.
“They were all pretty open and friendly,” he said. “I had played summer league before, so I had a higher competition level than Applewood.”
Tigers coach Ray Hughes saw Bergman’s work ethic and positive attitude from the first day of practice.
“He just wanted to work hard and wanted to get better,” Hughes said. “He brought a lot of positive energy to our situation.”
With the graduation of 6-4 Dalton Christian and 6-5 Zach Wolf from last year’s team, the Tigers came into this season looking for a low-post presence, and in Bergman, they found someone with a slightly different skill set than Christian and Wolf.
“He can score inside,” Hughes said. “As the years go on and with a couple of summers, he’ll polish more and more. He’s a legitimate low-post scorer and a legitimate low-post defender.”
Hughes wants his team to be able to run the offense inside-out and with Bergman on the blocks, that becomes easier. Bergman said he is capable of playing away from the basket, but he knows that’s not where the team needs him.
“I think of myself as pretty athletic,” he said. “I like shooting jump shots, I like getting out on the perimeter, but that’s not my role.”
It hasn’t just been Bergman holding down the low post for the Tigers. Dante Scroggins, a 6-4 sophomore, has gone from the junior varsity roster last season into a starting spot on varsity this year. Hughes has played both of the big men on the floor at times, and at other times, has played one while giving the other a breather.
“It’s definitely a work in progress,” Hughes said. “It’s good to see Dante getting better. He put in the work in the spring, put in the work in the summer, put in the work in the fall. It’s paying off for him. He still had a long way to go, but he’s going in the right direction.”
Bergman said he’s known Scroggins since they were young and now the two of them are teaming up on the low post.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Bergman said. “It’s nice having somebody to practice with and playing the game with other than just worrying about doing it all yourself. Dante is good at what he does.”
Bergman averages nine points and 7.5 rebounds per game so far this season, while Scroggins averages eight points and five rebounds a game.