The Berea Community boys basketball team will be without five of its six top scorers from last season, but head coach Eric Swords said not to count out the Pirates this year.
Despite graduating a core group of starters in Zane Brown, Tristan Duckworth, Dylan Haney and leading scorer and rebounder Ben West — the Pirates have reloaded with some younger talent and experienced transfers.
The team will also be without Jarred Whitaker this season, who decided not to return for his senior year.
“Losing five out of six starters, I think people will want to kind of peg us as being down this year,” Swords acknowledged. “However, this summer was one of the best summers we’ve had. We played hard together. As we progress, I’m seeing the toughness come out. Once we get everything tuned in, we will be gritty and get after it.”
The Pirates are coming off a solid 18-13 season last year — the most games won by Berea boys basketball team in many years.
“It will all be about carrying that momentum forward and I think we have a solid group that can do that and keep us pushing forward,” Swords said.
Junior Jaylen Dorsey will likely play a big role in moving the Pirates along this season.
Last year the guard averaged 11.2 points per game and 4.9 rebounds.
“I think he could be as good as anyone this year in the point guard role,” Swords said of Dorsey. “We are expecting a big year out of him.”
Junior forward Jayden Smith has also earned a bigger role this season.
“He has improved by leaps and bounds. We are going to rely heavily on him. He’s put in a lot of work over the summer. He’s a guy we can count on as likely being our second leading scorer. He can get 15 or so a night,” Swords said.
Sophomore Kobe Combs and junior center Rey Alejandro will provide the Pirates with speed and length on the court in addition to junior transfer Edward Sexton.
“He came over from Madison Southern where he played junior varsity there. He gives us some more length,” Swords said of Sexton.
Junior Nick Harrison has returned after an ACL injury and it vying for starter minutes.
Senior Will Brennan will revive his role as the seventh or eighth man again this season, Swords said.
“He gives us some depth and was really strong when we needed that energy. He will likely stay in that role and he’s very comfortable coming in and giving us some good minutes,” Swords explained.
Another spark off the bench will likely come from Quentin Morgan, who played some crucial varsity minutes for the Pirates last season.
Senior Timmy Thompson is eligible to play this season for the Pirates and Swords said the athletic guard has been a crucial find to fill the void left by Duckworth, West, Brown and Haney.
Swords said the team will still play an up-tempo, full-court press style, but is more versatile this year on offense.
“We’ve got more shooters. Probably the best offensive look since I’ve been here. We can really space the floor better this season and knock down some shots,” Swords explained.
Armed with a scrappy team with some offensive skills, the coach said the team is planning on making a deep run in the 11th Region All “A” Classic this season.
“I like our chances there,” the coach said. “I think if we can toughen up and really get that grit we can make some noise… We’ve tried to toughen up the schedule this year and hopefully we can be competitive. We want to compete in the district tournament and get a shot in the regions.”
The Pirates will open the season with six-straight home games with their opener scheduled for Dec. 3 against Frankfort Christian.