By Gene Phelps

Special to the Gazette

INGOMAR – Jonathan Ashley has a lot of reasons to look forward to the 2019-20 Ingomar boys basketball season.

Let’s start at point guard where juniors Hunter Bynum and Spencer High return.

“Hunter, from where he started, his maturity level has allowed him to become a leader,” Ashley said. “He sets the tone for us on defense. He’s going to have to slide into that role that Kelon Hall played and guard the other team’s best player.

“Spencer ought to be physical enough and mature enough to step into that backup role at point guard. When he’s intense, he can get the job done.”

The shooting guards are senior Nathan Weeden, along with junior Eli Reed, sophomore Sam Huffstatler and junior Darwin Beard.

“Weeden’s a shooting guard and he’s gotten better at creating his own shot,” Ashley said. “He’s really good driving the baseline. Down the stretch last year he hit a bunch of big shots.”

Until junior Zach Shugars returns from ACL surgery, the small forward spot will likely go to junior Tyson Smithey.

“Smithey’s got a big enough body to guard a five guy,” Ashley said. “He’s probably a true four, but handles it well enough that he can play the three. He’s got to prove he can guard the three.

“If he can play the three, Zach could end up a two guard. Tyson can do whatever we need him to.”

Clayton Stanford, a senior, will play the four position. Ashley calls him a “Swiss Army knife” because of his versatility.

“He’s been more physical and played really well this summer,” the coach noted. “He’s long and athletic. He’s quick with the basketball. He handles it well with both hands and finishes well with both hands.

A former Ingomar resident, sophomore Brayden McNeal, returns to join his elementary school teammates. The physical 6-foot-3, 210-pound forward will provide needed bulk inside.

“We excited to have him back,” Ashley said. “I think he’s going to help us.”

Nyhiem Jones, a 6-5 senior post player, gets his opportunity this season. He played mostly JV last year, but is getting all the work this summer with Shugars sidelined.

“He’s one of those guys who’s just figuring it out,” Ashley said. “I look for this summer to help him. He needs the work. He really hasn’t played a whole lot. He’s a late bloomer. He can be as good as he wants to be, depending on how hard he works at it.”

Ingomar finished 34-5 last season and reached the MHSAA Class 2A state tournament championship game. This year the Falcons return to the 1A classification with essentially the same team.

“If we can get the chemistry right, I’m looking forward to it,” Ashley said.

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