HED:Lee County teams ready to tip off season
By Jake Adams
Division 2-2A will be trying to keep up with Nettleton's version of the Jones's.
Thad and Devin Jones are the only two returning starters from Nettleton's 22-9 team of a year ago.
The 6-foot-5 duo has the heighth, averaged more than 25 points a game last year and Finch hopes for the same performance from the cousins this season.
The rest of the team will be new. Nettleton lost six of its top eight players, but Finch feels he has some solid new depth.
Guards Jamaal Arnold, Brad Calvert, Marcus Burt and forward Courtney Adams will see a bulk of the action.
"We need to work hard on defense," Finch said. "It's an area we're gonna have to work at. We need to spread the ball around and have a balanced attack. If everybody makes the shots they're supposed to make, we've got a chance to have a good year."
"Our sophomore group is one of the best groups we've had," Finch said. "I'd like to see them really push these older guys for playing time."
Division 2-3A winner Shannon has four starters returning and is geared for another run at the title.
But there is a problem.
Ten players are missing due to the Class 3A football playoffs.
Cory Morris, the Red Raiders' quarterback and last year's leading scorer at 12 points per game, is back. As are Brian Graham, Terrance Pointer and Cory Trice from last year's 14-15 finisher.
"We've got some depth coming back and we played 27 games this summer," Shannon coach Sherrod Miller said. "They've got the rebuilding year behind them."
Trice (6-foot-3) and Pointer (6-4) are expected to have a big impact down low.
"We'll have more depth at the post this year," Shannon coach Sherrod Miller said. "We're going to try to pound it in a lot."
Saltillo coach Johnny Bolen thinks his team may be a little undersized, but he has a plan.
It begins and ends with defense.
"We're going to have to play real aggressively on defense," Bolen said. "We're not big. We can't sit back in a zone because people will just shoot over us. We're going to play a full-court defense and put pressure on the ball."
Sherron Wade is the only returning starter from last year's 9-20 finisher, but probable starters Daniel Shaffer, Mitch Bailey, Andy Dillard and Jonathan Gaston all saw considerable action.
Sophomores Chris Tutor, Derrick Darby, Leo Robbins and Tim Pearce will be expected to contribute from the bench.
"With the type of defense and offense we play, trying to get up and down the floor, we're going to try to play at least 10 people," Bolen said.
Bailey, a 6-4 senior, is the tallest Tiger. Dillard (6-1) and Pearce (6-2) are next in heighth. With the lack of size, Bolen said his defense will need to create offense.
"We'll have to get steals fast-breaks and easy baskets," he said.
Mooreville's Troopers, who finished 20-15 last year, have shooters, but who will compliment them is the question.
Matt Justice, Aaron Vance and Kenyata Heard have started together for the past two years and proved themselves from the outside. But coach Rex Berryman wants to know who his big men on the inside will be.
Berryman said Billy Kyle, the tallest of the Troopers, will probably get the nod at center. LaRone Grady, Justin Dickerson and Matt Mitchell should also contribute.
But its the ability of Justice, Vance and Heard to bury the outside shot that the Troopers will rely on.
"If we can shoot the ball from the outside we'll give a lot of teams trouble," Berryman said. "It's hard for us to get anything close because of our heighth."
Baldwyn returns three starters from its 30-7 state semifinals team. But replacing the departed Guy Gardener and Keno Robins, both who now play junior college ball, may not be easy.
The good news is Tony Agnew, Mark Wade and Reko Price are back. Agnew averaged 15 points a game last year; Price averaged 11. Wade isn't a prolific scorer, but he's the right man for the job of setting up Agnew and Price.
Bearcats coach Sam Richey doesn't know what to expect from his team.
"I'm going to have to wait and see them play," Richey said. "I'm not sure what we have. I lost a couple of senior leaders. Some guys are going to have to step up and be leaders."
Richey hopes Agnew can make up for the scoring lost in Robins and Gardener.
"He'll need to, unless somebody shows they can score," Richey said.
The coach thinks Agnew has the tools necessary to play the role of scoring leader.
"He can take the ball to the hole," Richey said. "He's real quick, he can take it all the way or shoot from outside."