“We were a little motivated,” he said. “It wasn’t no poll or nothing, but I kind of heard through the grapevine, from some coaches and people in the community, that, ‘If you want to get Anniston, you’d better get them now, because Bullock will be down.
“‘He’ll be lucky to win three or four games.’”
Despite losing 12 seniors, including four starters, from the previous season, Bullock did all right this year. For that, he was the easy choice as The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County Class 4A-6A girls coach of the year.
Anniston not only won 28 games but reached the Class 4A Northeast Regional semifinals despite missing point guard Karena Thomas for the final six games. The season ended with a regional loss to Madison County, but not bad for a team that returned just three varsity players.
Bullock had talent and just had to develop it. He also had to mold a team around returning starter Evonna Jordan and junior Quanetria Bolton, who was set to have her breakout year.
Bullock knew Bolton was the key and went about trying to toughen his center. He took a hands-on approach, working against Bolton one-on-one in practice.
Also Anniston’s head football coach, Bullock used a football blocking dummy on Bolton and said he “kind of knocked her around a little bit.”
More than Bolton’s physicality, Bullock wanted to work on her confidence.
“When you’re new in a system, she didn’t really want to be as dominant as I want her to be,” Bullock said. “She was thinking that other players, more or less, might get upset because she was doing it.
“I told her we don’t play like that. That’s never in our mindset. We understand roles. We understand what each other can do, and, if you’re the most dominant player, then you just do what you do, and everybody else will just follow along.”
Anniston’s inexperience showed in spots, including a loss to defending 4A champion Jacksonville in the Calhoun County final, but Bullock had Anniston at 24-3 and ready to make its postseason run. That’s when Thomas left the picture for medical reasons.
That forced Bullock to move Jordan from small forward to the point. Jordan was Anniston’s second-leading scorer.
“When I put her at point, it kind of hurt her, scoring-wise,” Bullock said. “She was so busy trying to run the offense that she didn’t really look for her shot.”
Anniston still won four of those last six games, losing to Sylacauga, a 5A team, and Madison County, the Northeast Regional champion.
In between, Anniston won its area tournament and sub-regional. Jordan played five of those games with a broken nose.
Anniston did all right, despite losing all of those players. Turns out, tales of the Bulldogs’ demise were greatly exaggerated.
“I kind of laughed at it,” Bullock said. “I knew that, don’t nobody see on the inside what I’ve got except for me.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.