Coach: Champ Ligon, seventh year (334-188 overall)
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Last season: 30-3 (lost to Lexington Catholic in region finals)
Record since 1990: 344-194
Who's gone: Shelvin Mack, Terrell Combs, Dacoby Burnett, Larry Johnson
Who's back: Charles Ashford (6-2 sr.), Cameron Richardson (6-2 sr.), Jeremiah Mabson (6-3 sr.), Montell Morones (5-10 sr.), Kalib Ball (6-3 jr.)
Fresh faces: Andrew Adams (6-11 jr.), Joe Fain (6-0 jr.), Mike Baffour (6-1 jr.), Chase Blackburn (6-7 sr.), Tyler Smothers (6-4 jr.), Demarcus Wells (6-1 so.)
Outlook: Is Bryan Station due to slide after being rated among the state's best teams the last couple of years, especially since star Shelvin Mack has graduated? Ligon doesn't think so. "I don't know if we can put 30-3 up, but I think we'll be really good, right in line where we have been the last few years."
The Defenders return veterans Ashford (8 ppg, 5.5. rpg, 3.5 apg), Morones (9 ppg), Richardson (5.5 ppg) and Mabson (2 ppg). "That's a good nucleus of quality players with experience to build around," Ligon said. "And it doesn't hurt to have a 6-11 player transfer in." That big guy is Adams, whose family moved here from Wisconsin. "His potential is unlimited," Ligon said. "He's a great kid with a great work ethic. He can run the floor and he's got soft hands. I think next year as a senior he'll be recruited as a high Division I prospect."
Bryan Station's depth inside will include Smothers, Ball and Blackburn. Fain and Wells will get minutes in the backcourt. Ligon expects Ashford and Richardson to be a reliable scorers, and Morones will be a streaky three-point threat.
Question marks: Bryan Station evolved from mediocrity to elite status with Mack running the show. "Shelvin was our leader for four years, and that's a huge void to fill on and off the court," Ligon said. "This year it'll be really important for our seniors to share the leadership load. None of them personality-wise can carry us alone, but together they can."
Dec. 5—Holmes in Commodore Classic at Tates Creek; 9—at Henry Clay; 12—Tates Creek; 16—Lincoln Co.; 19-23—Defenders of the Station Invitational; 26-31—Arby's Classic in Bristol, Tenn.
Jan. 3—Sayre; 6—Madison Central; 9—at Lafayette; 10—at Christian Co.; 13—at Dunbar; 16—Scott Co.; 17—Applebee's Classic at East Jessamine; 21—Henry Clay; 24—Clay Co. in Colt Classic at West Jessamine; 27—at Fern Creek; 30—Dunbar
Feb. 3—at Scott Co.; 6—Lou. Central; 10—Lafayette; 13—at Tates Creek; 17—at Boyle Co.; 20—Mason Co.
Coach: Daniel Brown, third year (67-60 overall)
Last season: 15-14 (lost to Scott County in district)
Record since 1990: 307-230
Who's gone: Victor Moses, Aaron Boyd, Brian Nichols, Josh Oakley, Mike Gardner, Ryan Brightwell
Who's back: Prince Stewart (6-0 sr.), Brandon Wilder (5-11 so.), T.J. Barnes (6-3 sr.)
Fresh faces: Daniel Kiesling (6-4 so.), Tyler Williams (5-11 sr.), Trey Stewart (6-1 so.), Brandon Nichols (5-10 so.), Bradley Tilford (6-5 sr.), Marquel Johnson (5-8 jr.)
Outlook: Henry Clay hasn't had much luck in recent years, losing Chase Minnifield to a knee injury two seasons ago, and having Victor Moses on the shelf with a foot injury much of last season. "Arguably, we've lot our two best players back-to-back," Brown said. "So, obviously, the big key this year is to stay healthy."
But there are other keys, especially for a team so inexperienced. Prince Stewart (16 ppg) is the only full-time player back. He will probably have to score more, and will definitely have to cut down on his turnovers for Henry Clay to hold its own early while its young players come along. "Prince has to be a leader," Brown said. "He'll be our go-to man. The most important thing we need him to do is control the offense."
Wilder (4 ppg) has some experience and will be counted on early, along with Barnes, a senior role player. Brown calls Tilford, who's grown three inches since last year, the most improved player on the team. Kiesling is expected to be another newcomer who makes an impact. Johnson will be counted on as a shooter. Trey Stewart is Prince's younger brother. Nichols' brother Brian was a solid contributor before graduating last spring. The team could get a lift from Williams, a transfer from Colorado, who is a strong point guard.
School colors: Despite having a roster stocked with mostly sophomores, Brown is optimistic about his team. Why? These Blue Devils, he said, are "blue-collar kids, which is more my type. They're excited about being part of a successful program. So we may be inexperienced and undersized, but chemistry-wise, we'll be a lot better than we have been."
Blue Devils' schedule
Dec. 6—Christian County in Commodore Classic at Tates Creek; 9—Bryan Station; 12—at Shelby Valley; 13—Pike Central at East Ky. Expo Center; 19-23—Defenders of the Station Invitational; 28-30—Franklin-Simpson tournament
Jan. 2—Tates Creek; 6—at Scott Co.; 9—Highlands; 13—at Sayre; 15—at Dunbar; 17—Daviess County in S.T. Roach Classic at Dunbar; 21—at Bryan Station; 23—Mason Co.; 24—North Laurel in Laurel Co. Hoopfest; 27—Lafayette; 30—at Tates Creek
Feb. 3—at Madison Central; 6—Scott Co.; 10—Dunbar; 13—South Oldham; 17—at Lafayette; 19—West Jessamine
Coach: Damon Kelley, seventh year (79-89)
Last season: 4-21 (lost to LCA in district)
Record since 1990: 295-243
Who's gone: Dante Stewart, Bobby Morris, Deron Linton, Donte Turner, Adi Zaimovic
Who's back: Mike Walker (5-11 jr.), Wells Lawless (5-8 jr.), Tyler Barber (6-0 sr.), Micah Miller (6-3 jr.), Tanner Napier (6-4 so.), John Burton (6-1 jr.)
Fresh faces: Dee Yarbrough (6-1 so.), Logan Shaftner (6-4 so.), Nick Fergerson (6-0 jr.), Clark Duncan (6-2 jr.), Jackson Davis (6-4 seventh-grader)
Outlook: Lafayette was dealt a blow when Deron Linton, the team's leading scorer and rebounder last season, was diagnosed with a heart ailment that will sideline him for his senior year. But Kelley thinks his young Generals, many of whom got thrown into action during last season's struggles (the team didn't win a game after Jan. 12), can develop into a good team. "Last year they probably weren't ready but they had to play; now I feel they're ready to compete night in, night out."
Walker (14 ppg) figures to be the most reliable scorer, along with Barber (6 ppg). Kelley expects Napier to be a consistent point producer. Lawless will run the point. Miller and Shaftner have size, but also are capable of hitting from the perimeter. "I'm not as worried about scoring as I am stopping our opponents," Kelley said. "If we force turnovers, hold teams to a low shooting percentage and rebound, we'll have a chance to win a lot of games."
The Generals might also get help from Davis, son of former UK player Johnathon Davis.
Back to the future: Robert "Bobby" Madison, the inspirational leader who shot the Generals to the Sweet Sixteen championship in 2001, is back at Lafayette as a para-educator, and is helping out as an assistant coach. "He's great to have in the gym because he has a very positive impact on the kids," Kelley said.
Dec. 2—at Montgomery Co.; 5—at North Laurel; 9—Dunbar; 12—at Madison Central; 16—at Tates Creek; 20-23—Capital City Invitational at Frankfort Convention Center; 26-29—Holiday Homecoming at Marion County
Jan. 2—Covington Catholic; 6—at Dunbar; 9—Bryan Station; 13—Tates Creek; 17—Rowan Co. in S.T. Roach Classic at Dunbar; 20-24—Kenton County Classic; 27—at Henry Clay; 29—at Woodford Co.
Feb. 3—at Franklin Co.; 6—North Hardin; 10—at Bryan Station; 13—at Clark Co.; 14—Knott County Central at Hazard; 17—Henry Clay
Coach: Brandon Salsman, fourth year (124-63 overall)
Last season: 32-4 (lost to Holmes in state semifinals)
Record since 1990: 510-120
Who's gone: Nathan Novosel, Taylor Stewart, Jordan Smart, Tyler Corvin, John Tribble, Will Hicks, Zack Peffer
Who's back: Vee Sanford (6-3 sr.), Taylor Botkin (6-2)
Fresh faces: Taylor Martin (6-4 so.), Scott Schuette (6-3 so.), Tanner Peurach (6-7 jr.), Jaylen Beckham (6-0 fr.), Hall Conrad (6-7 jr.), Lee Ramsey (6-1 jr.), William Talbott (5-10 so.), Logan Cash (5-9 jr.)
Outlook: Even though stars Novosel, Stewart and Smart are gone, don't expect Lexington Catholic to shoot for anything less than the Sweet Sixteen. "We'll defend our region championship with a lot of heart," Salsman said. "Our program always has high expectations, and this year is no exception."
The cupboard is far from bare. Sanford (13 ppg) is one of the top players in the state. "He's 100 percent better than last year," Salsman said. "He's added 15 pounds of muscle and he's improved every part of his game." Botkin, overshadowed in the past, will get to show his versatility. "He can play just about any position. He's kind of like Matt Heissenbuttel," Salsman said, referring to one of the stars of the Knights' 2000 state runner-up team.
Ready to step into major roles are Martin and Schuette. For size, Lexington Catholic will rely on Peurach and Conrad, who'll need time to develop. Beckham will bring speed and quickness to the court. "With our inexperience, it'll take time to put all the pieces together," Salsman said. "But we still expect to win from the start."
Christmas cheer: Lexington Catholic will make its first-ever appearance in the King of the Bluegrass tournament at Fairdale the week before Christmas, then return home to host its own Holiday Classic starting the day after Christmas. If the Knights win their KOB opener against Bullitt East, they could face No. 4 Jeffersontown in the second round.
Dec. 2—Covington Catholic; 4—at St. Henry; 6—Paducah Tilghman at Marshall Co. Hoopfest; 11—at LCA; 12—at Carbondale, Ill., Invitational; 18-23—King of the Bluegrass at Fairdale; 26-30—Holiday Classic
Jan. 3—at Corbin; 6—Casey Co.; 10—Beech, Tenn., in Dunkin' Donuts Shootout; 15—LCA; 16—at Mason County; 18—Manley, Ill., in Martin Luther King Classic in Chicago; 19—Gary West in Martin Luther King Classic in Chicago; 23—South Laurel Shootout; 24—West Jessamine Colt Classic; 30—at Bethlehem
Feb. 3—Clark Co.; 7—at Louisville Christian; 10—at Madison Central; 14—Scott Co.; 17—at Lincoln Co.; 20—Wayne Co.e_SClBLexington Christian
Coach: Tommy Huston, third year (22-31)
Last season: 12-15 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Record since 1990: 202-247
Who's gone: Trace Helton, Patrick Nevitt, Cam Marshall, Daniel Langley
Who's back: Will Evans (6-6 jr.), Grant Sparks (6-5 sr.), Brandon Burdette (6-2 jr.), Evan Stephens (6-1 jr.)
Fresh faces: Will Kindred (5-8 jr.), Carter Helton (5-10 so.), Brandon Heilig (6-2 sr.), Storm Cherry (6-3 sr.), Taylor Barnette (5-10 fr.), Charlie Gullett (6-3 jr.)
Outlook: The inside story on LCA's potential is its inside guys — Evans and Sparks, both of whom have gotten bigger and stronger. Evans (8 ppg, 5 rpg) has put on 45 pounds since his freshman year. Sparks (6 ppg, 4 rpg) has added muscle, too.
Huston said Evans won't just be strong in the pivot. He can play on the perimeter and even bring the ball up the court. Huston called Sparks "the most improved player we have. He's deadly with his shot."
LCA's experience doesn't go much deeper than that. Burdette, who's still busy with football, and Stephens got playing time last year. The rest of the roster is mostly stocked with varsity newcomers. Kindred will be counted on to run the point. "We love him; he's a leader," Huston said. He'll be backed up by Helton, whose brother Trace graduated last spring. Heilig and Cherry are seniors who'll get their chance to contribute. Barnette, whose sister Sarah Beth is a star for the LCA's girls' team, is a promising freshman. "He's dynamite, and could end up starting," Huston said
Passion play: After losing to Lexington Catholic in the district tournament last March, Huston said he realized that "if we're going to compete in the city, we had to get guys with a little bit more passion for the game." He thinks Kindred and Stephens fill that bill, and sees it in some other players. That's why he's optimistic.
Dec. 5—at Clay County in Bobby Keith Classic; 11—Lexington Catholic; 16—at Madison Central; 19—at Mercer Co; 20—at Perry Central; 26-30—Lexington Catholic Holiday Classic
Jan. 2—Montgomery Co; 3—Scott Co.; 6—Tates Creek; 9—at Dunbar; 10—Wolfe Co. in Dunkin' Donuts Classic at Lexington Catholic; 15—at Lexington Catholic; 17—at Clark Co.; 20-24—All "A" 11th Region at Frankfort
Feb. 3—at Harrison Co.; 6—at Western Hills; 13—Lou. Eastern; 14—at Greenup Co.; 17—at St. Henry; 20—Lou. Christiane_SClBPaul Dunbar
Coach: Carl "Redd" Hutchinson, fourth year (54-44)
Last season: 21-8 (lost to Bryan Station in region semifinals)
Record since 1990: 330-199
Who's gone: Dion Johnson, De'Andre Webb, Seth Davis, Aaron Klein, Damon Powell
Who's back: Nick Hudson (5-11 sr.), Tyler Rogers (6-7 sr.), De'Vonte Webb (6-3 sr.), Marquis Clay (5-10 sr.), Todd Lanter (6-2 sr.), Brett Waldrop (5-11 jr.)
Fresh faces: Bryce With (6-7 jr.), Lamont Johnson (6-2 so), Larry Morton (6-2 eighth-grader), Braxton McFarland (6-2 eighth-grader)
Outlook: Dunbar is considered by many to be the second-best team in the region behind powerhouse Scott County. Hutchinson is flattered, but he's taking a wait-and-see approach. "I think we'll be pretty good, but I'm not sure."
The Bulldogs welcome back proven veterans Hudson (17 ppg), Rogers (12 ppg, 5 rpg), Webb (10 ppg, 4 rpg) and Clay (5 ppg, 5 rpg). Hutchinson hopes a more seasoned Hudson is the catalyst. "Nick has been a force in our program for years. We've seen him grow up and mature. We need him to show leadership this season." Rogers, who had mononucleosis in the pre-season, is expected to build on a solid junior year. Webb is a multi-faceted player. Hutchinson calls Clay the team's "spiritual leader. When he's on, he can be a real spark for us."
Newcomers to watch include With, who seemed to blossom in summer play and has lots of inside skills. Lanter will be expected to provide shooting. Waldrop will take over the point guard duties from Dion Johnson. "He has big shoes to fill," Hutchinson said. "When you lose a guard like DJ, who'd been handling the ball for Dunbar for five years, it's reason to worry."
Intangibles: Hutchinson believes chemistry is just as important as skill. "If you've got kids who work hard, play hard, listen, and enjoy being around the coaches, that translates into wins, I don't care what anybody says. We might not be as talented this year, but I think we'll be more of a team."
Dec. 2—Tates Creek; 5—Knox Central in Bobby Keith Classic at Clay County; 6—at Shelby Valley; 9—at Lafayette; 12—Doss; 16—Scott County; 27-30—at Daytona Beach Sunshine Classic
Jan. 6—Lafayette; 9—LCA; 10—at Danville; 13—Bryan Station; 15—Henry Clay; 17—Cumberland Co. in S.T. Roach Classic; 23—Dayton Dunbar; 30—at Bryan Station
Feb. 2—Mason Co.; 5—at Tates Creek; 7—at Shawnee; 10—at Henry Clay; 13—Anderson Co.e_SClBSayre
Coach: Ted Hall, first year
Last season: 14-11 (lost to Bryan Station in district)
Record since 1990: 276-221
Who's gone: Quinn Schwartz, Walker Hancock, Reeve McGaughey, Taylor Burgess
Who's back: Tebo Barnett (6-4 sr.), Cabot Haggin (5-10 so.), Alex Gaines (6-4 sr.), Wesley Walker (6-0 sr.), Ryan Brady (6-0 sr.)
Fresh faces: Mike Smith (5-6 eighth-grader), Will Park (6-2 so.), Griffin Patterson (6-0 so.), Griffin Miller (5-8 so.), Ward Roberts (5-7 jr.)
Outlook: Sayre is locked in the same district as perennial powers Scott County, Bryan Station and Henry Clay, but that doesn't mean the Spartans feel overwhelmed. "Our kids have such a good attitude, they don't let that affect them," Hall said. The last few years we've gotten beat pretty good in some games, but we've done pretty good in others. We love the challenge of playing the best."
The Spartans' veterans include Barnett, their main man inside; Brady, a good three-point shooter, and Haggin, a steady point guard. Gaines also will help out on the blocks. Walker and Roberts, a transfer from Scott County, also will have to contribute. An up-and-comer is Smith, who's brother Dee was a Sayre standout a couple years ago.
"I think we'll have pretty good quickness for us," Hall said. "We've got some guys who are athletic and can shoot, and have some versatility. We won't be very big, but we hope to use that to our advantage."
Boys to men: Hall is in his first year as head coach, but he's no stranger to the Spartans. When he began teaching and coaching at Sayre in 2000, this year's seniors were fourth-graders. So he has seen them grow up before his eyes. "Not many high school coaches get that, and I think that's an advantage for me," Hall said. "I've known them for so long and that makes for a special relationship."
Dec. 2—Menifee Co.; 5—at Paris; 9—at Frankfort; 12—Bourbon Co.; 13—at Williamstown; 19—at Ky. Country Day; 28—Henry Co.; 29—Paris; 30—Ky. Country Day
Jan. 2—University Heights; 3—at Bryan Station; 10—Nicholas Co.; 13—Henry Clay; 16—at Garrard Co.; 22-24—All "A" 11th Region in Frankfort; 27-31—Bluegrass Conference Tournament at Ky. School for Deaf
Feb. 3—Lou. Collegiate; 7—at Scott Co.; 14—at Portland Christian; 16—Western Hills; 17—at Model; 19—at Brown
Coach: Wayne Breeden, first year (170-60 overall)
Last season: 14-14 (lost to Dunbar in district)
Record since 1990: 355-204
Who's gone: Michael Sparks, Michael Spalding, Carlos Parris, Mike Stone
Who's back: Ryan Fucci (6-2 so.), Marcellus Barksdale (6-3 so.)
Fresh faces: Kelwin Cuyler (6-2 sr.), Jordan Hagan (5-11 sr.), Andre Ingram (6-1 so.), Ezra Garner (6-4 jr.), Myles Potter (6-4 jr.), Justin Daugherty (6-2 jr.), Kendalle Mack (5-11 so.), Michael McMackin (5-9 jr.), LaRobert Grant (6-1 jr.)
Outlook: As Tates Creek's third coach in three years, Breeden knows it'll take the Commodores time to adjust and learn a new system. Putting a positive spin on his task, Breeden likes having a roster stocked with underclassmen. "We're young pups," he said. "That makes it fun. You realize just three years ago these kids were watching the Flintstones. At times I know I'm going to feel like Kindergarten Cop with all the young guys we'll have on the floor."
Fucci (8 ppg) and Barkdsale (8 ppg, 5 apg) are the only returnees with a lot of experience, and they're only sophomores. Fucci's dad, Dom, was Kentucky's Mr. Basketball his senior year (1975) at Tates Creek. "Ryan has a lot of different skills at guard," Breeden said. "He can score outside or inside, and has a lot of leadership characteristics." Barksdale "is multi-facted, too," Breeden said. "It'll be important for both those guys to know we're pointing toward March, and they've got to keep getting better."
The supporting cast will include Cuyler, who didn't play last year, and Garner, a wide body who's a work in progress. Potter is a slender inside player. Ingram has athleticism and perimeter skills. Mack, Daugherty and McMackin will get a shot at playing time. Hagan joined the team after playing football. "We're going to take some lumps along the way," Breeden said, "but by March I hope we can compete with the top teams in the region."
Track record: Before coming to Tates Creek, Breeden coached Ashland Blazer and Owensboro to the Sweet Sixteen. He has a clear idea of how he'll push the Commodores in that direction. "The biggest thing we're trying to establish is a championship culture," Breeden said. "It's like building a house ... you don't start with the roof, you start from the ground up. We'll have a few tenets we'll keep to every night: be solid defensively, work hard and play hard second to none, and be an unselfish team."
Dec. 2—at Dunbar; 5—East Carter in Commodore Classic; 6—Male in Commodore Classic; 9—Scott Co.; 12—at Bryan Station; 16—Lafayette; 19-23—Defenders of the Station Invitational
Jan. 2—at Henry Clay; 6—at LCA; 9—at PRP; 13—at Lafayette; 16—Ryle; 21-24—Toyota Classic at Scott Co.; 27—at Madison Central; 30—Henry Clay
Feb. 3—Madison Southern; 5—Dunbar; 7—at Bardstown; 10—at Franklin Co.; 13—Bryan Station; 17—at Clay Co.; 19—Woodford Co.