Growing into role: Southard’s emergence key for Decatur

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, January 16, 2019
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Sizing him up

SIZING HIM UP – Decatur’s Ethan Southard catches an entry pass during Friday’s win over NCTA. Southard has posted several double-doubles this season and has emerged as a key defensive presence. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

It’s hard to miss Ethan Southard when he’s on the floor for the Decatur Eagles.

The 6-7 senior towers over many players at the Class 4A level, and his 6-10 wingspan makes him a force inside. While Southard has always had size, he has not always been able to use it to his full potential.

That changed this offseason.

Southard played 98 games with his teammates between the end of Decatur’s 2017-2018 campaign and the start of this season. As a result, he has quickly developed into a bona fide big man.

“It helped tremendously,” Southard said. “Playing that many games and getting that many looks down low – [shots] eventually start to go in.”

Through 26 games, Southard has helped Decatur to one of its best starts at 23-3. The Eagles won the prestigious Whataburger Tournament last month, with Southard earning all-tournament honors.

“I’ve been really proud of him and his growth,” said Decatur coach Drew Coffman. “In every area offensively, he’s had growth. That’s really an attribute to how hard he worked this spring and this fall.”

Southard has posted several double-doubles this season, but his focus remains on the other end of the floor.

“I don’t care a whole lot about the stats. I care about how I affect the team,” Southard said. “I feel like defense is a little more important than offense. I take tremendous pride in my defense.”

In Friday’s win over North Central Texas Academy, Southard held the Pioneers’ 6-10 post Fili Ivanis to under 10 points.

“The kid he played [against North Central Texas Academy] is a really good player, probably has a chance to play college basketball at some point,” Coffman said. “I thought [Southard] did a really good job on him.”

Coffman said Southard’s attention to detail on defense speaks volumes to just how valuable he has become.

“I think he does a lot of things that probably don’t even make it on the stat line, as far as altering shots, talking on defense and helping,” Coffman said. “He’s been an integral part of what we’ve done this year.”

A goal Southard set before the season started also impressed and somewhat surprised Coffman.

“His goal this year is to be Defensive MVP of our district,” Coffman said. “Very few kids even think of that side of the ball. That kind of tells you about his selflessness and where he sees his purpose on his team.”

“He’s really embraced the role of rebounding and being a defensive presence inside.”

For Southard, contributing to Decatur’s historic start has been memorable. He doesn’t know when the Eagles’ run will end, but he intends on making an impact in his final season.

“It is [special],” Southard said. “This is my last year and the last season I’ve got.”

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