High School Basketball: Roland’s Phillips is primed for a strong junior season
After winning 24 games and making it to the Class 4A State basketball tournament last season, Darrius Phillips is even more driven this summer leading up to the season.
The incoming Roland High junior has optimism that the Rangers could improve off of a stellar 2017-18 season where Roland won two tournaments, a District, Regional, and an Area title.
“Roland is already on the map I want to help make it where we are one of the main teams in the state,” Phillips said. “I also want to make a name for myself but mainly just for the team as a whole.”
Roland will have the necessary parts to make a third-straight run at the State Tournament as the Rangers will return four of their five starters from last season including four of their top five leading scorers.
“It's pretty nice,” Phillips said of having four returning starters from last year's team. “We have Braxton (Shook) who played some last year and he'll help us out a lot too. Our bench we have a lot of sophomores that played good at ORU at as well. We got a heck of team coming in this year.”
For Phillips basketball wasn't always the sport of choice growing up it was actually football.
The 6-foot-3 swingman even wanted to give soccer a try but his grandpa Malcolm McFerren was amendment against it.
Phillips has a tight bond with his grandparents but more so his grandpa.
“My grandpa is my father figure in my life,” Phillips said. “My dad wasn't really there for me and my grandpa has pushed me a lot. We've had some ups and downs in our relationship but he still pushes me. He's really my dad. He's been there since Day 1 pushing me to the limits and making sure I'm doing everything to do to be the best person I can be.”
Before arriving upon Roland's campus as a freshman, Phillips had moved around quite a bit.
From attending a private school in elementary in Little Rock, an elementary in Fort Smith and also attending Spiro through middle school.
After the initial adjustment period of when he first came to Roland Phillips says it's become like a second home.
Playing for legendary coach like Ed Lewis and joining such a constant basketball program even easier.
“Coach Lewis is a real good coach,” Phillips said. “He's seen a lot of stuff and done a lot of stuff for Roland. Some of the reasons we win our games is because he's been in certain situations so many times before. He knows exactly what to do and we just got to execute what he tells us to do.”
Last season Phillips averaged 13 points, four rebounds and two assists per game for a Roland team that could have a different leading scorer on a nightly basis.
Teams couldn't just game plan for one or two guys and that's what made Roland so dangerous last season.
“Anybody on our team can go off for who knows how many?,” Phillips said. “We play a lot of good team ball so it just depends on who has the hot hand that night is going to get the ball. If you're feeling it coach tell such and such go get the ball.”
Playing solid team ball is what the Rangers strive for.
With as much returning talent as they will have once again they were surely be a tough team to beat.
Phillips feels that when the Rangers are locked in they can play with anybody in the state regardless of class.
“When we play good team ball and we are focused we can matchup with anybody in the state,” he said. “Regardless of class we can matchup with anybody. We beat some 5A schools in some tournaments so I feel we can matchup with anybody as long as we are playing good team ball.”
The Rangers will replace four seniors from last year's team including the bulk of their bench scoring.
“It's a different feeling now that they are gone,” Phillips said. “But a bunch of our sophomores have made a big jump from last year to here. They are going to help us out a lot. I'm looking forward to seeing them help out.”
This summer Roland has been like that fine oiled machine they were the majority of last season by having tremendous success at team camps at Idabel and most recently in Oral Roberts University.
Phillips had work obligations and wasn't able to attend the team camp at Idabel made him more excited to join up with his teammates for the rest of summer play.
“It felt good getting back with the team,” Phillips said. “We have a lot to prove. Made it to the (State) semifinals and got beat. Now we see what we got to work on and we feel like we could be one of the top teams again this next year with the coaches we got and the players we returning and coming in.”
Phillips says he will continue playing basketball in college at what level and to what capacity is up in the air at this point.
Up until recently Phillips had been playing on a travel ball team called PWP but will be looking for a new team in July.
At the moment Phillips says he isn't sure about what team he'll be playing for but is putting work in the gym whenever he can.
If it were up to Phillips summer would be over already and school would be back in session.
“Honestly I'm ready for school to start back up,” Phillips said. “I'm ready to get back to school, get back in the gym and get ready for the season.”
He's grateful to the game of basketball because it has taken him to places he wouldn't normally get a chance to see.
With his work ethic and determination it's hard not to believe in Phillips who once again is ready for the Rangers to make a third-straight run at the State Tournament.
Making three-straight is a major feat and something Phillips feels the Rangers can accomplish.
“I honestly see us going back to State,” Phillips said. “Hopefully the Finals. We just got see where it goes and play it by ear.”