Winning a state championship doesn’t happen overnight.
Dadeville boys basketball coach Jesse Foster knows it takes time, hard work and the right group of players. While his goal is always to win a state championship every year, Foster puts more emphasis on taking it one step further than the year prior.
That’s exactly what the Tigers did this season and Foster is the 2019-20 Outlook Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
After being defeated in the area championship two years ago, the Tigers took things one step further last season by winning at that level and earning a home game for the sub-regionals. But they were upset.
This season though, Dadeville actually went two steps further — winning not only the sub-regional game to punch its ticket to Montgomery but also winning the first regional game to earn a spot in the Elite Eight.
“Winning that first game down in Montgomery and getting to the Elite Eight was a big deal,” Foster said. “There were a lot of good games this year. Beating (Benjamin Russell), that’s a big one. I know I’ll get some knocks for that but they were my rival in high school. Also beating Coosa and Elmore County were good ones.”
Along the way, Foster made some tough coaching decisions that panned out well. One of those was to put two freshmen, Daquan Doss and Phil Dowdell, into the starting lineup. Although the two clearly had great skills, it’s still not easy for freshmen to play at the varsity level. But Foster believed they were ready and they proved him right.
“I watched them two guys at the junior high level and the game was so easy for them down there,” Foster said. “They are just blessed with a lot of talent, both of them. Dowdell is going to be a defensive star and do whatever we need him to do. Daquan is one of the most solid and he can shoot the lights out. They are just good athletes and I saw they were able to handle it. I would’ve never did it if I didn’t think they could do it.”
With Foster finishing off his third season as head coach, he’s had a lot of time to get to know his older players and he had several guys who have played together for quite a while. Not only have they played together as a group though, but Foster had become a part of that group as well.
“They’ve been playing together all their lives and they just gel,” Foster said. “They do everything together and I like to spend a lot of time with the guys too. We get a lot of camaraderie by just hanging around. We do everyday life things; we’ll go out to eat or go to the movies.”
Plus, Foster is also the defensive backs coach for Dadeville’s football team and he’s worked with a lot of the same guys year-round.
“Being with them day in and day out, working with them at school and most of them playing for me in my position on the football team, I spend a lot of time with them guys,” Foster said. “It’s just a blessing for me to be around such a great group of guys all the time.”
And Foster is going to continue to use his “one step further” approach. The Tigers fell short of a bid to Birmingham this season as they narrowly lost in the Class 3A quarterfinals. Of course the goal is always a state championship, but Foster said he just wants to make sure the Tigers go one step further.
“I wanna make it to the Final Four,” Foster said. “I’m not going to lie; that’s our goal. We’re going to do our best to try to get there; it’s a lot of work but we’re going to make it.”