Editor’s note – This is the 11th in an 11-part series of high school basketball previews counting down to the scheduled opening night of the regular season on Monday.
One possession. One shot. One point.
That was all that stood between the Warren Central boys’ basketball team and a state title last season.
With almost everyone back from that state runner-up team, the Dragons enter the season not just as the favorite in District 14 and Region 4, but one of the favorites to win the state championship. The expectations are high, but Warren Central coach William Unseld said the approach to the season remains the same.
“We take the approach every day as if we are still hunting,” Unseld said. “Our approach is we lost our last game. We didn’t win it. So we are still hunting. These guys are very competitive, very spirited. There is no complacency. They won’t allow it. It’s made my job easier.”
Warren Central loses leading scorer – and vocal leader – Jaiden Lawrence to graduation, but returns almost everyone else to give Unseld a deep and talented roster with plenty of experience.
Seniors Chappelle Whitney and Omari Glover both had big moments in last year’s postseason run, while senior point guard Izayiah Villafuerte is healthy after playing at about 70% battling a knee injury last season.
Seniors Malik Jefferson, Damarion Walkup and Tayvion Wells give the Dragons added depth, while junior Kade Unseld moves into the starting lineup after being the top threat off the bench last season.
William Unseld said it is the deepest roster he has had – with anyone capable of stepping up on a given night.
“These guys love playing together and really I think that is our strength,” Unseld said. “I’ve never had a team this talented that likes to play together as much as these guys do. Those guys move the ball and whoever is open shoots it – and they are OK with that.”
The Dragons will be tested with a schedule that includes the King of the Bluegrass and only seven home games. Warren Central’s home opener is Dec. 13 against Franklin-Simpson. It will be the only home game until Jan. 17.
“That was the whole purpose of (the schedule),” Unseld said. “I want to have battle scars. We loaded the schedule up as much as we could and I wanted them to play on the road a lot. I want them to go into hostile territories and see how they respond.
“They have a target on their backs. I have had groups before where you can kinda tell you have to push them to tell them it is not going to be easy. I don’t have to do that with this group. They are mature and they get after it every day.”
The Dragons are ready for the challenge and eager to get another shot at a state title.
“When you get that close to winning, you want to go back,” Villafuerte said. “Anything less than that will be very disappointing.”