Last season: 14-13 (lost to Lafayette in the semifinals of the 43rd District Tournament)
Coach: Brandon Salsman (12th year)
Three key contributors
Luke Johnson: Loyola-Maryland signee averaged team-high 23.2 points and shot 48 percent from the field last season. The 6-3 guard chose the Lions over an offer from Stetson while mulling interest from a few other mid-major programs. “I just felt like Loyola was the best fit and I was happy to make the decision early,” Johnson said.
Zan Payne: The 6-5, 220-pound son of University of Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne averaged a double-double for the Knights last season and should carry more of a scoring load as a junior. “Zan’s just come along light years,” Salsman said. “ ... He’s relentless. I compare him to Chuck Hayes from Kentucky. He’s got a motor that just doesn’t stop.”
Peter Whitman: At 6-7 and 240 pounds, the senior gives LexCath some experienced size few teams in the city possess this season. “He’s put in the time and is just a horse down low,” Salsman said of Whitman, who relishes his role as LexCath’s dirty-work doer. “Defense wins championships, that’s what I’m here to do,” Whitman said. “Rebounds, you’ve gotta have ’em.”
Others to watch
Blake Scott, a senior sharpshooter, and TC Price, a junior, didn’t post eye-popping numbers but played in every game last season. They’ll round out the Knights. Javen Hardin, a sophomore, has emerged as a defense-first guard who will see playing time for the Knights. Max Sparkman, a 6-8 junior, has great ball skills for a big man, Salsman said.
Games you gotta see
LexCath, projected as the top team in Lexington, will take on three high-level foes — Covington Catholic (road Nov. 30), Paul Laurence Dunbar (road Dec. 9) and Scott County (home Dec. 13) before hosting its annual Republic Bank Holiday Classic from Dec. 26-30.
Lexington Catholic had been the only school in the city to advance from the 11th Region in the 10 seasons prior to last year. ... Johnson and Whitman have played together year-round for the last seven years. “It’s like playing with my own mind on the other side of the ball,” Whitman said. ... Payne likened current New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis to a big brother. “We talk on the phone sometimes every now and then,” Payne said. “He makes me want to challenge myself to be better. ... I model my game after him.”