Blount Press Row

Wes Lambert

Former Rebel set to face old school as Blaze assistant coach
1-Blackman coaches
Blackman assistant coach Wes Lambert, far right, looks on from the bench during a game this season. Lambert started at guard on Maryville’s 2007 state championship team. The Blaze meet the Rebels in a state tournament quarterfinal on Wednesday in Murfreesboro. Photo by Helen Comer/Daily News Journal

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

Lambert, far right, helps his Rebel teammates lift the championship trophy.

Lambert, far right, helps his Rebel teammates lift the championship trophy.

Blackman assistant coach Wes Lambert knows well the dangers of taking Maryville lightly.

Eight years ago, the Rebels prevailed in two overtime games and overcame a succession of ranked teams in winning the 2007 boys state tournament. Lambert, in his first season with the Blaze, started at guard for Maryville that year.

Wednesday, Lambert and Rebel coach Mark Eldridge will find themselves on opposing benches when defending state champion Blackman meets Maryville in a Class AAA quarterfinal at Middle Tennessee State University.

Tipoff at the Murphy Center is 1:15 p.m. CST.

“It’s awesome he’s having success in what he’s doing because he’s such a great young man,” Eldridge said. “It’ll be different seeing him down there, seeing as he’s a Maryville guy.”

Lambert sees a lot of similarities between the Rebels of ’07 and the team looking to knock off his Blaze.

“They really do resemble the 2007 team,” he said. “I’ve gotten to watch a few games on tape. It’s really evident how they’ve bought into playing as a team.”

Both had/have a do-it-all guard who’s more than just a scorer, the ’07 Rebels with state tournament most valuable player Jordan Damron, the 2015 group represented by district most valuable player Easton Upchurch.

“I see a lot of Jordan in him,” Lambert said. “The thing I’ve been impressed with is his presence coming off ball screens. A lot of players don’t understand you can pass up a good shot to get a better shot. He does.”

Both were/are strong in the post. Aaron Douglas averaged a double-double for the 2007 tournament.

Senior Bryce Miller proved the difference as Maryville upset first No. 2-ranked Bearden then No. 1 Oak Ridge to claim this year’s region championship.

Lambert and former Rebel Tyler Maples were a big, big part of the story in 2007, the pair playing lockdown defense on one Division I-signee guard after another. Lambert said he sees similar defense-first qualities current Rebels Jake Headrick, Andrew Petree and Maryville point guard Tristan Upchurch, Easton’s older brother.

You need a Kent Basile, a fearless competitor who can both jump shoot and get to the basket.

T.D. Blackman?

Check.

In the role of Ryan Click, the sixth man whose 3-pointer at the buzzer in double overtime lifted the Rebels to a 69-66 win over Clarksville in the championship game, this Maryville team has senior Dalton Price, a prolific jump shooter with an absolutely terrific stroke.

The Blaze picked up one of the great young assistants in the business when Blackman coach Barry Wortman added Lambert to his staff last summer. Few young coaches come with a better pedigree. Lambert’s father, Maryville College head coach Randy Lambert, is one of the most respected minds in the game, college or otherwise.

Wes Lambert played for his father as Scot.

An assistant at Belmont last season, Lambert said he was honored when Wortman asked him to join his staff and help the Blaze go for the repeat. Maryville and Blackman, which returns only senior guard Isaiah Hart from last year’s title team, also have much in common.

Most gave Blackman little chance of making another run after Tennessee football signee Jauan Jennings and the rest graduated last May.

Rallying around the motto “12 miles” – as in 12 miles from the Blackman campus to MTSU – this year’s team paid them no mind, Lambert said.

“The schedule we played was killer,” he said. “The competition alone is what’s gotten us back here.”

Blackman has rallied around Hart and Christian DeWitt, a post player Lambert describes as having “the most energy I’ve ever seen in a high school player.” Shooting guard Brian Williams is one of the most personable kids you’ll ever meet, he said, and a deadly shooter from distance.

“We’ve got some good pieces,” Lambert said. “It’s going to be interesting.”

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