A new coach, a couple new players and a whole new system give the Paul Laurence Dunbar boys' high school basketball team a different look this season.
But Mike Smith, a hold-over from last year, is still working his old magic and getting the same results.
Smith turned in his typical high-energy game in leading the host Bulldogs to a 74-55 victory over Lexington Christian on Tuesday night. The 5-foot-10 senior point guard had 29 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Smith agreed that he's still an ever-hustling sparkplug, but he said new coach Scott Chalk and an influx of talent has relieved the pressure on him to score.
"I've got a heck of a team around me now, so I can distribute and show my point-guard skills a lot more," he said. "Coach has me in the perfect offense. I can score or set up somebody else."
Dunbar is still a work in progress for obvious reasons.
The Bulldogs are learning Chalk's way of doing things with a different roster and a couple players on the mend.
Eric Trigg, who sat out last season after transferring from Lexington Catholic, showed flashes of his skills in contributing 11 points and six rebounds against LCA.
E.J. Floreal, who moved here from California when his dad Edrick became UK's track coach, is adjusting to Kentucky high school hoops. There's no doubting his athleticism, which he used to get seven points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Will Gary, a veteran high-scoring guard for Dunbar, missed the pre-season with knee problems and is just now rounding into shape. His speed is coming back, as he showed in getting 15 points against LCA.
The Bulldogs are currently without 6-7 senior Taylor King, who has a high-ankle sprain.
"It's going to be a slow process," Chalk said. "The guys worked hard in the pre-season, but it wasn't until we started playing games that they realized, 'Oh, this is what you mean.' I think they're starting to catch on a little bit. It showed in how well we played our man-to-man defense tonight."
Dunbar broke away from LCA with a 16-0 run in the third quarter that padded a 34-28 lead into a 50-28 cushion. LCA rallied to within 58-47 before the Bulldogs pulled away again.
Senior guard Tyler Harville, the Eagles' only varsity veteran, led them with 21 points. Matt Rose, a 6-5 sophomore, had 10 points and six rebounds.
LCA Coach Brad Carter liked the way his team played loose — firing and hitting three-pointers and finishing fast breaks — once they fell behind by 20 points.
"That's the way we've got to play all the time," he said. "We're going to be underdogs every game, so we've gotta play with a carefree attitude."
Carter thinks Dunbar, which was rated No. 18 in the state in the pre-season, "has a chance to be one of the best teams in the region."
Smith is one of the reasons why.
"Mike controls the whole game for them, like he did tonight," Carter said.
LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN (2-4) — Harville 21, Rose 10, Young 0, Lannertone 7, Blair 3, Kalinowski 2, Trimble 3, Nighbert 3, Whitman 2, Wilson 4.
PAUL DUNBAR (3-3) — Smith 29, Gary 15, Trigg 11, Peasah 5, Floreal 7, Lewis 3, Black 2, McHugh 2.
LCA 8 15 12 20—55
Dunbar 11 22 21 20—74
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com