Coach Cabral Huff is coming off of his first season as Head Coach of the Holy Innocents’ Bears, in which the team reached the Elite 8 in A-Private. They surprised some people with their playoff run, starting the season 2-13, but eventually finishing the season strong & winning 6 of their last 8 games to go deep in the state playoffs and nearly knock off eventual A-Private champion St. Francis. Coach Huff brings a wealth of experience to the HIES programs with stops at both the high school and college ranks. He took the time to discuss this year’s journey with the current Bears’ team, as well as highlighting their areas of focus going forward. Let’s see what Coach Huff had to say.
You have a bunch of experience and have been at a lot of different spots over the years; What was your 1st year experience at HIES like compared to your inaugural year at other places? Were there significant differences or challenges that you faced?
“Definitely have been blessed to be at great spots like St. Francis & Duluth of late in my HS career as a Head Coach and at Georgia Southern and Alcorn State in the college ranks. My first year presented it’s fair share of challenges and differences. First, let me say the administration and athletic department here at Holy Innocents’ has been top notch and nothing short of phenomenal. It is really one big family #805Pride!!!”
“So in terms of comparison, I believe Holy Innocents’ just as Duluth were ready to take a next step in their success that they had achieved before I arrived. It is very different than my time at St. Francis as that as building from the foundation (the start). I will say that although success had been had at Holy Innocents’, we as a staff needed to make sure our foundation (what we are building) was firm and built on the right things. The biggest difference I’ve faced at Holy Innocents’ was being in charge of an entire program from 7th grade on up. At Duluth and even St. Francis, you have an impact in it by being visible, etc., but here I am in charge of everything from when and where they practice to who is the coach to their schedule. So I would say that is the biggest difference.”
You guys had some ups and downs throughout the season, but had a strong finish to the year and were right there with St. Francis in the Elite 8- What changed for you guys down the stretch that allowed you to make that playoff push?
“What changed for us was buy-in and belief. Once we had complete buy-in to change and why it could help us succeed; our players played for the guy next to them which lead to belief in the guy next to them. Belief & buy-in then carried over to our staples of energy and effort. If you saw us play especially as the season went on, you saw a team battling for one another every possession. I truly believe we are the epitome of overcoming adversity as many teams that start 2-13 with the schedule we had would fold. We didn’t as it brought us together and made us lock in. January our practices were finally the level we needed them to be and it carried over on the floor. My job at Holy Innocents’ is to build men using the game of basketball; what better way to show how as a man you must overcome adversity and not give in than what we were able to accomplish after starting the season 2-13. I challenge anyone to go look at the score with 3 minutes remaining in the Elite 8 game versus St. Francis as we were right there.”
What do you think will be need to be done in order for you guys to continue to have that type of playoff success next year and beyond? Is there anything specific that you’re going to focus on for 2020-21?
“Great question as mentally, we can’t be satisfied with last season. So we as a staff meet with each player individually to discuss their season and what we felt was next in their progression as a player & how that helps us as a team. As a coaching staff, we know as a team we have to finish games better after having 9 losses by 6 points or less. We feel defensively once the buy-in occurred we were really good defensively holding 11 out of 14 teams under 60 points (2 teams scored 62) and 10 games we held opponents to under 51 during that time. All this being said, we must become a better overall rebounding team. We must get stronger so a lot of that comes in the weight room. Lastly, we must develop individually as players to help the overall team. We must get all our guys better where everyone becomes a threat to score. That is the player development part. We as a staff do believe this season we were able to set the foundation. The same night our season came to an end our players each spoke in their end of season meetings about what’s next and getting in the gym, and I will say this they were the very next morning at 6:30am.”
Are there any unique aspects to the HIES program that you think make you guys different from other programs across the state? What do you want people to think and say about you after watching a HIES game?
“What makes HIES unique is the level of coaching throughout our athletic department. There are a lot of championships and winners: 3 time state champ in Volleyball, Golf state championship, Cross Country state championship, back to back Girls Basketball state champions, wrestling, etc. as I could go on. We challenge each other as coaches to get better every day, but we do that with love and servant leadership. Can’t speak enough of the coaches there at HIES that make it great! Basketball wise what will make us different is our attention to detail and development of players from middle school through high school. I’ve always been big on development. What I want people to say & think after watching a HIES game is they are family and believe in one another because they fight for each other on the court by how hard they play with energy and effort. I want them to see growth in players individually as well as our team. Every night we will compete and I want people to see that in our team and guys because in life you must compete.”