A senior laden Madison Southern boys basketball team will boast plenty of experience on the court in Austin Newton’s second year as head coach.
The coach said that with the transition under their belts, the Eagles have a lot of upside this year as the team has adjusted to a new coach and a new style of play.
“We have a lot of older guys on the team — 10 seniors on the roster this season. They are very experienced and a lot of them have grown up playing together and are determined to make their final high school year a special one,” Newton said. “When you have some experienced players who have been through some battles, it makes for something great. We have a group that can compete. Last year, we were still trying to figure each other out. This summer, they knew exactly what I wanted and are very comfortable and we know what we need to do to be successful this year.”
Unfortunately, a few weeks ago the Eagles learned they would be without one valuable senior starter.
The team’s leading scorer and rebounder, Trent Moberly, tore his ACL and will likely be sidelined for his entire senior season.
That leaves a big hole in the roster. Last season, he averaged 16.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.
“My heart goes out to him. He’s always been a great basketball player and this year he was making such great strides. He was maturing as a leader and making sure the team was doing all the little things to make us better,” Newton said.
However, the Eagles are determined to put together a great season in tribute to Moberly.
“We are going to play every game in his honor. As far as winning goes, we want to have the total package. We want to have the best season in Madison Southern history. We want to win a district title and we want to win a region tournament game. We haven’t won a region game in recent memory, maybe ever. We want to change that this year,” Newton said.
Last season, the Eagles ended with a 16-17 record and fell to Henry Clay in the first round of the 11th Region Tournament, 82-57.
However, Southern lost just three seniors to graduation and just one main contributor — Josh Reynolds.
“We return five or six of our main guys from last year. This year, we’ve only gotten stronger. We have a deep team which is going to help us as we try to fill Moberly’s spot,” Newton said.
Newton has already tasked senior Colby Conrad and sophomore Nate Turner with that challenge.
“Nate is 6-foot-4 and is a really skilled big guy. I think he is going to have a good year. Colby is going to have to get in there and go after those rebounds. They are going to have to step up for us and come in and fill that void,” Newton explained.
Without Moberly, Newton acknowledged the team might struggle early on with rebounding but said he is excited about the offensive threat the Eagles will have on the court this season.
“We have some shooters who understand the game and know how to take shots. I’ve been really pleased with how the guys have been working. I’m running the same offense I ran when I was an assistant at EKU and this team is doing better than some college teams. It just a matter of us going out and executing what we do in practice,” Newton explained.
Senior guard Chad Fugate, who recently committed to play at Asbury University, has only gotten better this season Newton said.
“He is an elite shooter. He is probably one of the best stand-still shooters I’ve been around in my life,” the coach added.
Fugate was the team’s second-leading scorer last season. He averaged 12 points per game and led the Eagles in three point shooting percentage at 48.2 percent.
Senior guard Samuel Lee was second last season in percentage from beyond the arc at 40 percent and shot 51.1 percent from the field.
“He’s really athletic and was our sixth man last year,” Newton said of Lee. “We are going to need him to step in and play some more minutes for us this season, but I think he’s ready. He does a little bit of everything for us.”
Fellow senior Hunter Buchanan has already shown his growth as a shooter over the summer.
“When he is on, he’s virtually unstoppable. He hit seven threes in the intra-squad scrimmage last week. We need him to be more consistent and he is putting in the work. We hope he can be more on than he is off for us this year,” Newton explained.
Rounding out the sharp-shooting senior guards this season is Jonah Wooten.
“He has a very high basketball IQ. He’s just a sharp kid and is another great shooter for us,” Newton said.
Offensively, the Eagles will soar this season.
“I tell the guys every practice that we have the makings to be the best three-point shooting team in the state. This year, they really understand the right shots to take and I think it will be really exciting,” the coach said.
Another senior who will likely be leading the Eagles on the court in his signature competitive style is Britten Robinson.
“He’s done a good job at being a leader this year. He’s really stepped up into the role. He’s the guy who is going to be our coach on the court and keep everybody focused,” Newton said.
Backing him up will be junior Jayden Adams, who spent a lot of time this summer in the point guard position while Robinson was playing baseball.
“He’s a guy who we are really counting on to play and he started a lot this past summer and grown,” Newton said.
Sophomore Walt Smith will likely also get more minutes this season as he transitions from football back to the basketball court.
“He is a really tough competitor and we hope to get him back in the basketball flow quickly. We are going to need his energy and toughness,” Newton said.
The Eagles will be tested early in the season.
Southern opens the season against Cordia at home before taking on defending state champions Trinity on Dec. 6.
“We are really trying to make that a game. They lost a lot on that team but I know they are going to reload. We want to go out and compete as best we can and try to make this season one to remember,” Newton said.