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.