By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Central boys are coming off of their magical postseason run last year that ended with a 32-5 record and the hoisting of the KHSAA Sweet 16 trophy in Rupp Arena.
Tournament heroes Dominique Hawkins, Ken-Jah Bosley, Quan Taylor, Daniel Parke and Hunter Stocker are no longer around.
Despite that, the Indians will still be a formidable opponent this time around.
“We’ll miss those guys, no doubt, but it’s not like the cupboard is bare,” Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “We have some guys back like Demarcus George, Sam Jones and Coty Alexander who played quite a bit last year. And we have some talented younger players, they just don’t have any varsity experience.”
Feldhaus said he expects the 2013-14 Indians to be a lot more balanced on offense.
“Last year we had two or three people who did the majority of the scoring. This year we are going to have to spread it around. I think we have seven or eight guys who are going to have to share that responsibility,” Feldhaus said. “That’s a good thing. But when the game is on the line you need to know who you can go to and I don’t know who that is right now.”
George, Jones and Alexander will be counted on to account for much of the scoring from the perimeter as well as providing leadership for the younger guys.
George played quit a bit in every big tournament the Indians played in last year, while Alexander came off the bench to provide some quality minutes in George’s absence in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament last season.
Isaiah Johnson, an athletic 6-foot-3 wing player, who can play both the guard and forward spots, joined the team from Harlan, while senior Ross Ramsey, junior Kirk Humphrey and sophomore Cameron Thomas will also be counted on at the guard spots.
Feldhaus said he looks for some good things from Thomas this season.
“We’re expecting big things out of Cameron. We think he can really help us this year. He’s very athletic, he’s long and lean and looks like a player,” Feldhaus said.
Jones will be the mainstay in the middle, providing the muscle and inside presence that the Indians lost with the departure of Taylor and Stocker.
John Williams will be in the rotation as well and could very well end up being the Indians’ starting point guard, Feldhaus said.
Feldhaus said this year’s team has the potential to be a very good defensive team because of its length and speed.
The experience his younger players gained from the big tournament experience and playing against the departing seniors last year could be a big advantage this season.
When the Madison Southern Eagles take the floor Dec. 3 against Madison Central, fans might need a roster to figure out who is on the floor.
The Eagles, coming off a very good season last year, are faced with the task of replacing 11 players from a team that won 17 games.
Only three players — senior Devante Linville, junior Tanner Kidwell and sophomore Stacy Burns — have scored a point in a varsity game.
That means that Southern coach Shane Buttry and his staff basically have to start from scratch.
“Practice has been good, but it’s been kind of slow learning what we’re doing,” Buttry said. “Last year, our guys had done everything we asked of them so many times they knew exactly what to do. This year we are going to have to go step-by-step and teach every little thing all over again.”
Like many other teams, that process has been slowed because Linville and Andrew Miller just finished up playing for the football Eagles last week and Kidwell joined the team a few weeks earlier after soccer season ended.
But while the Eagles are extremely inexperienced, Buttry said there is some talent there, it will just take time to develop it.
“My biggest concern is just the inexperience, but there’s nothing you can do about that. We’ve got some really nice players and some young kids who know how to play the game,” Buttry said. “I’m really comfortable with our top eight players. You’ve just got to get some games under their belts. It’s just going to take a while.”
Tanner and freshman Michael Jefferson will be asked to run the point for the Eagles. Buttry said it’s too early to tell which, and said he wouldn’t be surprised if they both weren’t on the floor at the same time.
“Both of them have their positives about them, so it is either-or right now. But we want to run quit a bit, so having both of them on the floor at once is not really a bad thing,” he said.
The Eagles will have some size on the inside with Linville, Burns and sophomore center Andrew Miller, who Buttry said he is expecting some big things from.
“Andrew has had a really good summer for us. He was either our first or second leading scorer all summer so we’re looking forward to getting him out there,” Buttry said. “He’s a little over 6-foot-3 and about 215 pounds right now so he is a big kid. He moves pretty well and gets good position under the basket and he is really strong.”
The Eagles will be without another starter from last years team other than the departed seniors.
Junior Damien Harris, the Eagles football star, who committed to the University of Michigan, will not be playing basketball this season.
Harris, who was a main cog in the Eagles’ success last season wants to play, but Michigan coaches encouraged him to forgo basketball. Buttry said while he could use the talented Harris, he fully understands the quandary the player faced
Buttry said it will take some time to figure out exactly who will be starting when the Eagles line up against Central on Dec. 3.
“I really can’t say it will be this five guys out there because until we get everyone out there and get some practice and some scrimmages under our belts, we won’t know,” Buttry said. “It is a work in progress right now, but we play for February anyway. But I feel real good about us right now because we have a lot of gym rats. They are an eager group and want to learn. It’s just going to take some experience.”
The Model boys team is coming off one of the most successful seasons since its inception.
The Patriots finished with a 23-7 record and a history-making first-ever trip to the All “A” Classic last year.
But like every team in the district, the Patriots lost most of their starting five from that tournament team.
Only Zack Rice-Gordon had any varsity playing time for the Patriots last season. Gordon was a big contributor to that team and Model coach Wes Scarberry said he is a much improved player who will be counted on to carry a big load for the Patriots this season.
“Zack had a really good summer. He made the all-star team at the 5-Star camp in Louisville playing against some very good competition. His confidence level is through the roof right now,” Scarberry said. “Zack can do so many things. He can play the point, he can post up. We’ll use him a lot like we did Jon Ballard, we’ll move him around a lot and exploit the mismatches he creates with his size and versatility.”
The Patriots are inexperienced, but they will have eight seniors on their team that will be counted on to contribute.
Jared Adams played junior varsity last season but the experience he gained going against departed seniors Anthony Gerald and A.J. Hammons on a daily basis has prepared him to play a much bigger role this season, Scarberry said.
The Patriots also will be helped by the addition of senior point guard Keith Mason, who transferred from Madison Central.
Caleb Kincaid, a 6-foot-5 center who had a big game in last year’s All “A” regional game against Berea, will man the middle.
Levi Agee, who took a year away from basketball last season to concentrate on soccer, is back and will provide some rebounding and defensive help on the inside as well.
Sophomore Ephraim Otieno, a lightning quick guard, will be an asset for the Patriots on offense, which plays at a hectic pace, Scarberry said.
“Ephraim is super quick. When he has the ball it is really hard to stop him, which really fits into our system because we play fast and we like to press,” Scarberry said.
Speed will be one of the team’s strength, Scarberry said.
“Our transition game will be big for us. We try to play as fast as we can, it’s almost out of control. We kind of play a style that people have a hard time preparing for,” Scarberry said. “We try to get out on transition and get to the rim and we’ve got four or five guys who can pretty much get to the rim any time. So we’re going to try to exploit that.”
Patriots fans will see a much a more balanced scoring team this season, Scarberry said, and they will see a very hard working team.
Unlike the other three teams in the district, the Berea Community Pirates aren’t looking at having to replace most, or all of, their starting lineup from last season.
The Pirates lost three players — Eli Woody, Daniel Hubbard and Nolan Sweet — from the team that finished 8-22 last season under first-year Coach Cameron Jackson.
This year, Berea returns a veteran team, led by senior Trey Terrell and Andy Allen, with a year under its belt in Jackson’s system and should be much more competitive in district play.
At times last season, the Pirates were just simply out-manned and overpowered by many more physical teams.
This year, Jackson said he thinks his team will match up much better with its district rivals.
“Last year we just were not as physical and as strong as a lot of the teams we faced and we panicked a lot and threw the ball away,” Jackson said. “This year we are much stronger and a lot more experienced and a little bit more patient, which I think will bode well for us.”
Terrell and Allen will man the wings for the Pirates and both have matured physically and worked hard in the off season and Jackson said he expects them to carry a big load for the Pirates.
“Last year we called Trey a tall 6-foot-2 or a short 6-foot-3. This year he’s a solid 6-foot-3. He’s worked very hard on his body and has gotten a lot stronger and worked on his jumping ability. That’s going to make him be able to finish around the basket a lot better this year,” Jackson said. “Andy is wiry strong. He’s matured and gotten stronger and he’s going to be our do-it-all guy. He is going to get us 10 rebounds, 10 points and hopefully 10 assists a game.”
Last season, the Pirates really struggled with teams with speed, especially at the guard position.
This season, Berea features a speed merchant of its own in Madison Central transfer Jarrel Tevis.
Jackson said the 5-foot-11 speedster is a big asset for Berea.
“We expect a lot of good things from Jarrel. He adds that quickness that we haven’t had at Berea in a lot of years,” Jackson said. “He is one of those quick guards that we had trouble with last year. He helps us to have a quick point in the dribble drive and to just have that extra speed that we will play against day-in and day-out.”
Shyiem Alexander, a 6-foot-1 sophomore will man the second guard spot. As a freshman Alexander played quit a bit last season as a freshman, and Jackson said his development over the summer has made him an important cog for the Pirates.
“Shyiem is a big guard to go along with Jarrel. He decided to be just a one-sport guy and he really worked hard on his game and I think everybody will be surprised with his development in one year,” Jackson said. “Shyiem will be as important a factor for us this season as Andy and Trey are. He’s going to be very exciting to watch.”
Hubbard was a space eating man-child in the middle for the Berea last season. There is no one on the roster with Hubbard’s size and strength, but the Pirates do have two capable replacements to fill the void.
Dustin Cates, who backed up Hubbard last season, and 6-foot-3 Deondre Tate will fill the void nicely, Jackson said.
“Deondre’s improvement from last year to this year is just ridiculous. He has worked hard on his body and his jumping ability has really improved. He’s dunking the ball with ease and is more physical in the paint. He’ll be exciting to watch,” he said. “Dustin did a good job for us last year and he’ll be a steady post presence for us. He has a very high basketball IQ. He’s not real athletic, but he’s very strong, he’s patient and he can pick his point.”
The Pirates also have some veteran players who will be expected to contribute every night coming off the bench.
Bradley Adkins played in almost every game as a freshman last season. The 6-3 sophomore sharpshooter gives the Pirates a weapon off the bench which Jackson said will be invaluable in helping to spread out opposing defenses.
Junior guard Austin Warford will also see a lot of playing time off the bench spelling both Tevis and Alexander. Jackson said the competition with Tevis in practices every day has helped Warford to develop his game and he expect good things from him.
The Pirates might not be the tallest team in the district but they might just be the most versatile.
Five of the Pirates’ top six players are between 6-foot-1 and 6-foot-3.
They all have inside and outside skills which, Jackson said, allows them to play multiple positions.
“We’ve got guys like Andy, who can play all five positions, and Trey, who can play 2-5, so we have guys who are very interchangeable,” Jackson said. “Our best post game is from our wings, so we will be able to post up Trey and Andy and Shyiem as well, then we can also take them out on the wings when they have a big guy on them, so they can create some matchup problems for people.”
The Pirates open up on Dec. 6 at home against Lynn Camp.