BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON
When David Ferrell was hired to start a basketball program at The New School in Fayetteville six years ago, he had dreams of it being successful.
But the former West Fork and University of Ozarks head coach, who has over 600 career wins, admits even he was surprised with how quickly that came to fruition for the Class 1A private school.
Not only did the program win a state tournament game in its initial season, but will head into next week’s Ronnie Brogdon Bad Boy Mowers tournament with a 19-1 record.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate,” Ferrell said. “We made the state tournament our first season and we have made the state tournament every year of our existence and have either won or tied for our conference championship three out of the four years.
“Honestly the plan was to get competitive at some point. I would love to take credit for it, but honestly no idea how it happened this fast. Year one we had a group of just hard-working kids and that first year we finish fifth in the league, but got through the district tournament, got through the regional tournament, got to the state tournament and even had a chance to win a game.”
The Cougars are having their best start ever with wins over Rogers and Benton among 19 victories and a lone loss to Springdale Har-Ber.
“We’ve got a veteran club for one thing,” Ferrell said. “We have started the exact same line up for three years now and they have matured.They can all play and we’ve got some help off the bench, a little depth for a small school. We go seven or eight deep, sometimes even nine or ten.
“We kind of play fast, press a lot. We have played a tough schedule. We have played Rogers and Har-Ber and Benton and played in the Omaha tournament so we feel like we are pretty tested.
“It’s been a really, really good start and we have some tough ones coming up,” Ferrell said. “We go over to play in the Bad Boys tournament in Highland and then we open conference play with County Line, who is 22-0 and went to the state finals last year.
“So off to a great start, but we know that we have a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
Ferrell was truly in on the ground floor.
“This is our fifth year of competing in varsity (basketball),” Ferrell said. “We started athletics six years ago and I was hired six years ago. But what they did was add a grade a year at a time. My first year here all we had was like ninth and 10th graders so we played junior varsity for that first year.
“The guys that are seniors now, I have had them since the 7th grade. They are good players, good kids and get a lot of support from their parents and administration. It’s kind of been a perfect blend.”
The starting five includes Evan Goldman, Will Stoener, Quintas McNeal, Jackson Harris and Mekale Hardeman.
“Evan Goldman is actually my first father-son combination as I also coached his dad back in the late 80s,” Ferrell said. “He actually came to us as a sophomore. He has been a two-time all-state player.
“Will is a 6-1 forward and his older brother was on my first group and he has just continued to get better each and every year. Quintas McNeal is our point guard and also came to us as a sophomore.
Basically the rest of the team I have had since the seventh grade.
The New School is one of 18 teams competing in the Dec. 26-29 Bad Boy Mowers event in Highland.
The Outlaw Division is for large schools and has Batesville, Bentonville West, Cabot, Conway, Mariana Lee, Nettleton, Osceola and Memphis Power Center Academy.
The Maverick Bracket of smaller schools has The New School, Calico Rock, Cedar Ridge, Guy-Perkins, Highland , Izard County Central, Mammoth Springs, Manila, Melbourne and Memphis Middle College
“We play the winner of Calico Rock, who we beat over there last year and they went on to the state semifinals, and Mammoth Springs,” Ferrell said. “They play on Monday and we open up on Tuesday against the winner of that game.”