Editor’s note – This is the fifth in a 16-part series of high school basketball previews counting down to the scheduled opening night of the regular season Jan. 4.
The Barren County boys’ basketball team enters the season as the team to beat in District 15 and one of the top teams in the region.
But Trojans coach Warren Cunningham is quick to point out preseason predictions tend to mean very little once the ball is tipped – especially in this district.
And while Barren County might be expected to lead the way, Cunningham said he anticipates another balanced season with everyone capable of stepping up.
“It is always a dogfight,” Cunningham said. “The teams that maybe aren’t as talented as the others find ways to make up for that and always make the games very, very competitive.”
Barren County loses starters Will Bandy and Jacob Shaw, but brings back one of the region’s best players in junior Aden Nyekan.
Mason Griggs and Gavin Withrow also return to provide some balance with Nyekan, with Taye Pointer set to run the offense. Cunningham said he expects bigger roles for Ryan Shirley and Corbin Murphy, with Aiden Miller expected to help in rebounding.
“I think this is a year that is good to have experience just because of all the craziness and unusualness to the season,” Cunningham said. “I think it helps to have experienced players, especially early in the season. We return five or six guys at some point in their career that have either started or played a lot of minutes. It is just a matter of figuring out everybody’s roles and working on some depth.”
Allen County-Scottsville also brings back a strong core that includes one of the region’s top players in senior Mason Shirley.
While Shirley is capable of carrying a team offensively on his back any night, Jake Bow and Jax Cooper have also been solid on the offensive end and should provide depth this season. Senior Michael Smith and Tyler Ford are also expected to contribute, with Allen County-Scottsville coach Brad Bonds expecting a big season from junior Wyatt Coffee as well.
“We’ve got a really good core of men that are returning that did a lot of good things for us last year,” Bonds said. “We are definitely going to miss the seniors that graduated, but we have always said that our motto is ‘next man up’ and we really feel like a good core of young men that can get the job done.”
The Patriots will hit the ground running, opening against district opponents Monroe County and Glasgow.
“That’s not an ideal situation by any means,” Bonds said. “You generate a schedule starting in late November and have some December tournaments to get through some things to get ready for that big time January district schedule. This year we don’t have that. We are not alone on an island. Everyone is in the same scenario as we are. We are just very grateful that we are going to get the opportunity to play. Hopefully our kids will be ready.
“There have been some teams that have lost some players, however this district is still going to be competitive.”
Glasgow will have to replace a lot, with Ethan Harlow the lone senior.
“I think we have a few guys that played some minutes, but in terms of production we are really searching for production,” Glasgow coach James Willett said. “We lost seven guys off a pretty talented team. We just kind of hit the slumps last year – due to injury and other things – and we just couldn’t get out of it. It never came together like we expected it to.”
Willett will look to Harlow and a deep junior class to bounce back from a disappointing finish last season, when the Scotties were upset in the opening round of the District 15 tournament.
Sam Bowling brings valuable varsity experience, while Jackson Poland showed flashes last season.
Willett said he expects Ashton Cerwinske to step up and have a more active role, while Brennan Short will provide depth in the backcourt. John Myers was a big defensive cog who will be asked to do more offensively this year, while sophomore Clay Pippen also should see action.
“It’s just going to take some consistent effort,” Willett said. “Whenever you replace a lot of seniors you just have to get guys in different roles and prepare them the best you can. We definitely need some production from these guys.”