LIVE OAK, Fla. — The Suwannee boys basketball team starts a new era with a new coach in Malcolm Pollock, who grew up in Hamilton County, where he also played and coached.

Pollock said he aims to “change the culture here,” and create a respected and successful program. And that was his desire in finding a head coaching position.

“I didn’t want a program that was a proven success, that way there wasn’t any pressure on me,” Pollock said. “I wanted to be able to come in here and do things right, then over time progress. I’m in it for the marathon, not the sprint. This will be a three to five-year deal to get to a consistent level, but we’re going to figure out some parts of it this year. ”

Pollock has been coach at Suwannee since May, coming from Lincoln in Tallahassee where he was assistant for two years for coach Matt Anderson, who Pollock said has won many state titles.

He didn’t always want to be a head coach but credited Anderson with changing his understanding of the role.

“As an assistant, there are certain parts of the game you don’t have to focus on, especially if you have a good head coach,” Pollock said. “He made it easy for me to understand what it took to be a good coach. Great guy, he taught me a ton about coaching.”

Pollock said coaching at Hamilton would be, “a dream job. But Columbia and Suwannee were both jobs I’d love to have based on the pedigree and potential of both programs. And I thought the programs had really good financial and community support.”

But Pollock got to coach at Hamilton as an assistant in the 2015-2016 season, when the team made it to the state finals. He was head coach there during the 2016-2017 season

before leaving for Lincoln. He has also taught at the university level.

“And I knew that talent comes through Suwannee County,” he said. “When it opened up, I felt like it was the right program because they had a coach who was here 10 or 11 years, and he did a pretty good job. I felt like I could build a solid program here. And previous players from Suwannee had made it to high levels of playing basketball. I also want the school to have good programs at junior varsity, and even trickling down to middle school.”

Pollock said the 2018-2019 team was good, and has many players returning this year, notably Tyree Taylor and Tyrece Freeman.

“We have a lot of good pieces here that I admire,” he added. “It’s can we piece it together in order to make a run at the playoffs and a district title,” noting that the team was 8-12 last year and didn’t make the playoffs.

“Tyrece Freeman will be solid for us, he’s worked hard since he got here, in the weight room and in conditioning and he’s trying to develop into a combo guard,” Pollock said, adding Taylor is still deciding whether to play this season or concentrate on his future playing football in college. “If Taylor decides to play, he’ll be a big part of what we’re trying to do.

“Jay Campbell, a junior, should be pretty strong for us, and Nicolas McClain should be impactful for us, and Anthony Brown. Between those four and if you add in Taylor along with other returners I think we can be pretty talented.”

Brown and McClain are new additions to the team.

Pollack said he has personal goals and expectations for himself, but will let the team choose what they want to accomplish.

“My personal goals are simple: I want to use basketball to impact my players, so they grow into adults and have character and handle responsibility,” he said. “To establish a respected program, a winning season and get a couple of my seniors into college basketball, to progress every year and get to a place where we are consistent. As far as basketball (this season) goes, I’ll let my team establish what their goals are. It’s easy for me to say, ‘this is what I want,’ but speaking honestly, that’ll be the first question I ask once we pick the team. Once they tell me their goals, I’ll coach them to that expectation. If they say their goals are to win a state or district championship, then I’m going to expect that type of focus, that type of attention to detail, that type of accountability, and therefore I’ll rise to that occasion.”

The Bulldogs have Baker County, Godby, Marianna and Gadsden County in districts, and Pollock considers Columbia and Hamilton to be top rivalries.

“We have a pretty good district, all were in the playoffs last year besides Baker and us,” he said. “Columbia made it to the elite eight last year and they’re bringing a lot of players back. Hamilton will be a good battle as well. I’m hoping that some of the games I schedule like Gainesville, Santa Fe and Ft. White become rivalries. I think that games like that can be pretty good if we’re pretty good. If we get up to a high caliber of playing, every game will be a competitive game.”

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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