Editor’s note – This is the eighth in a 16-part series of high school basketball previews counting down to the scheduled opening night of the regular season Jan. 4.
Warren East boys’ basketball coach Brandon Combs believes he has a team capable of competing with anyone in the Region 4 tournament.
Getting there could be the challenge.
The Raiders haven’t made the tournament since 1997, the longest drought in the region. With District 14 expected to once again be a juggernaut, Combs knows his team will need to make a big jump to be one of the final two teams standing.
“I really feel like once you get to the region that you like your chances,” Combs said. “Eventually it is gonna happen. Whether I am the coach or not, it is going to happen. The streak is going to end. It would be a great time for it to happen, too.”
The Raiders will have a young group that got plenty of experience last year. Combs said he would have liked this team to have had a summer and some scrimmages to gain even more experience heading into the season.
“We have to figure out what we are going to be good at,” Combs said. “That’s what stinks about not having June basketball or a couple of scrimmages before we play. Once we find out what we are good at, we are going to be able to do a couple of different things offensively and defensively.”
Senior guards Sam Wheeler and Jaxson Wilson will be asked to lead by example. Combs said he is expecting a big year out of junior guard Kaleb Matlock, with junior Devaughn Williams and Linkin Lockhart also expected to take a leap forward this season.
Tay Price played a lot in district games as an eighth-grader, while sophomore Isaiah Andrews saw significant minutes as a freshman and responded by finishing third in points and second in rebounding.
“(Andrews is) going to be tested,” Combs said. “He’s gonna get a lot of teams’ best defenders. He’s probably gonna get two guys running at him a lot defensively, so he is going to have to be ready for a difficult time. I think he is ready for the challenge.”
Warren East won’t have much time to adjust with a difficult schedule out of the gate. The Raiders open against Barren County, Warren Central and Bowling Green and play six of eight district games in January.
“I am willing to bet there is not another coach in the region who will trade me,” Combs said. “If we can stay healthy and get through January, you have to feel pretty good about yourself in February. You will come out of it battle tested and hit your stride getting ready for the tournaments.”