Coach: Mike Allen, third year (26-35)
Last season: 12-21 (lost to Madison Central in first round of region)
Top players: Larry Morton (6-3 sr.), Tyler Smith (6-3 sr.), Jordan Henry (6-0 jr.), Marcellous Washington (6-1 jr.), Daquice Allen (6-1 jr.), Kenyon Hipps (6-2 sr.), Tim Dunn (6-1 fr.), Andre Davis (6-0 fr.), Deandre Bradford (6-3 jr.)
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Outlook: To call them Munchkins would be an exaggeration, but in a city flush with big guys, the Defenders are on the small side. "That's our Achilles' heel," Mike Allen said.
Bryan Station hopes to compensate with solid perimeter play. "Our guards are our strength," Allen said.
Morton (14 points per game) is back after leaving the team for disciplinary reasons late last season.
"Attitude drives everything, and his just wasn't right last year," Allen said. "But he's doing what he's supposed to do. He's at his best when he lets the game come to him and doesn't feel he has to do too much."
Daquice Allen (3 ppg) and Washington (10 ppg), a pair of promising juniors, are terrific shooters.
Henry, injured most of last season, will run the show.
The Defenders will look to the versatile Smith for inside play and leadership. Hipps, a football star, will lend athleticism to the cause.
The Defenders will present matchup problems when they have five ball-handlers, passers and shooters on the floor.
"We'll be hard to guard," Mike Allen said. "It's in the trenches I'm worried about. Overall, our margin for error will be small."
Nov. 30—Pulaski Co. in Whitaker Bank Classic at Mercer Co., 7:30
Dec. 4—Henry Clay, 7; 7—Tates Creek, 8; 8—Henderson Co. in Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon Co., 4:30; 13—Dunbar, 8; 15—Calvary Christian, 4:30; 20-23—Fort Harrod Classic at Mercer Co.; 27-29—Henry County tournament.
Jan. 5—Taylor Co., 4:30; 8—at Lafayette, 7:30; 11—Scott Co., 7:30; 15—at Henry Clay, 8; 18—at Woodford Co., 7:30; 19—Bourbon Co. in Al Prewitt Classic at Henry Clay, 3:30; 25—at Dunbar, 8; 28—Sayre, 7:30; 29—at Scott Co., 7:30; 30—at Model, 7:30.
Feb. 1—at Franklin Co., 7:30; 5—Lafayette, 7:30; 7—at Tates Creek, 8; 12—Lexington Christian, 8; 15—at Elizabethtown, 7:30.
Coach: Daniel Brown, seventh year (142-100 overall)
Last season: 22-9 (lost to Bryan Station in district)
Top players: Jordan Green (6-4 jr.), Trey Grundy (6-6 jr.), Christen Cunningham (6-1 jr.), Jeremiah Tisdale (6-2 so.), Darien Tichenor (6-5 sr.), Teddy Ware (6-0 jr.), Campbell Setzer (5-10 jr.), Gerrard Newby (6-4 sr.)
Outlook: Henry Clay embraces its No. 5 pre-season rating.
"We want people to recognize our hard work. We've got good kids, talented kids," Brown said. "We're big, we're long, we're deep, and Henry Clay's tradition is second to none."
The Blue Devils must get consistent play from junior standouts Grundy (12 ppg, 6 rpg), Green (14 ppg, 6 rpg) and Cunningham (12 ppg, 3 apg).
Division I prospects Grundy and Green have gotten stronger, improved their perimeter skills and amped up their intensity.
Brown considers Cunningham one of the best point guards in the state.
"You've got to get your best players to do the little things and to be your hardest workers," Brown said. "For the most part, our guys are doing both."
Tichenor (5 ppg, 7 rpg) can be an inside force. Ware is a three-point threat. Tisdale is one of the state's top sophomores.
Henry Clay was regarded as "soft" last year, a description Brown doesn't dispute. He hopes work in the weight room will give the Devils a more physical presence. He thinks Henry Clay's ultimate success, though, will hinge on rebounding and free-throw shooting.
BLUE DEVILS' SCHEDULE
Nov. 27—at Tates Creek, 8; 29—Bullitt East in Mr. Basketball Classic at Tates Creek, 6.
Dec. 1—Seven Hills, Ohio in Roland Wierwille Shootout at Berea College, 7:45; 4—at Bryan Station, 7; 8—West Jessamine in Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon Co., 8; 15—Louisville Trinity in Farm Bureau Classic in Pikeville; 20-22—at Woodford County Invitational; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
Jan. 4—at Scott Co., 8; 5—Woodford Co., 7:30; 8—at Sayre, 7:30; 10—at Dunbar, 6:30; 15—Bryan Station, 8; 18—Franklin Co., 8; 19—Tates Creek in Al Prewitt Classic, 7; 25—Lafayette, 8; 26—Southwestern in Joe B. Hall Prep Classic at Montgomery Co.; 29—at Madison Central, 7:30; 31—Christian Brothers in Coaches vs. Cancer in St. Louis, 8.
Feb. 2—Louisville Trinity in Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette; 5—Scott Co., 8; 7—Dunbar, 8; 9—Fleming Co. in Shoot for Cure at Nicholas Co., 6; 12—at Lafayette, 8; 14—Simon Kenton, 7:30.
Coach: Mike Mendenhall III, second year
Last season: 13-19 (lost to Scott County in first round of region)
Top players: Jackson Davis (6-9 jr.), Nick Trisko (6-8 sr.), Lance Blakley (6-2 jr.), Charles Sweatt-Washington (6-6 sr.), Tran-ard Chester (6-3 sr.), Shon Wright (6-6 so.), Aaron Evans (6-4 sr.), Ethan Burlingham (6-8 sr.), Gavin Owsley (5-9 jr.), Dequise Robinson (5-9 jr.)
Outlook: "We're the all-airport team," Mendenhall said, noting Lafayette's surplus of size. The Generals pass more than just the look test. As a young bunch last season they were one of the top rebounding teams in the state, and matured into a region qualifier as they learned a new system under a new coach.
Mendenhall thinks his players are "miles ahead" of where they were last pre-season.
Davis, a high-profile prospect since he was a seventh-grader, struggled at times last season (even though he averaged 14 ppg, 8 rpg). Mendenhall thinks the versatile Davis "is ready to reclaim the title as top player in his class."
Trisko (10 ppg, 7.5 rpg), once exclusively a three-point shooter, now has an inside game, too. Wright is a blossoming pivot man whom Mendenhall expects to have "a breakout year."
Chester (11 ppg) and Sweatt-Washington (10 ppg, 5 rpg) are strong and athletic. Blakley will run the point.
The key to Lafayette reaching its potential? "Consistency night in and night out," Mendenhall said. "I'm hoping that comes with maturity."
Nov. 26—at Bullitt East, 7.
Dec. 4—Dunbar, 8; 7—Lexington Catholic, 8; 11—at Tates Creek, 6; 14—Madison Central, 7:30; 15—Bishop O'Connell, Va., at Scott Co.; 23—St. Vincent-St. Mary at Canton, Ohio; 27-29—Gateway Holiday Classic at Montgomery Co.
Jan. 4—Tates Creek, 8; 5—Southwestern in Dunkin Donuts at Lexington Catholic, 8; 8—Bryan Station, 7:30; 11—at Lexington Christian, 8; 12—Eastern at Lexington Christian, 6:30; 15—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 17-19—Toyota Classic at Scott Co.; 23—at Dunbar, 8; 25—at Henry Clay, 8; 29—Franklin Co., 8
Feb. 1—Lexington Christian, 8; 2—Butler, 8; 5—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 8—Louisville Trinity, 8; 12—Henry Clay, 8; 15—Louisville Christian, 7:30.
Coach: Brandon Salsman, eighth year (221-92 overall)
Last season: 24-8 (lost to Woodford County in first round of region)
Top players: Jack Whitman (6-9 sr.), Dillon Avare (5-11 sr.), Tom Banahan (6-5 sr.), Evan Fraliex (6-3 sr.), Tanner Johnson (6-5 so.), Jarad Griffin (6-2 so.), Reese Ryan (6-3 so.), Michael Talbott (5-10 so.), Robert Dence (6-6 jr.)
Outlook: The Knights have the best back-to-the-basket big man in the state in Whitman (19 ppg, 11 rpg), a William & Mary signee. "Jack flew under the radar last year. He won't have that luxury this year," Salsman said. But Whitman still figures to carry the load.
Banahan gives LexCath another big body. Avare and Johnson, the team's best shooters, figure to start, along with Griffin.
Salsman expects Ryan to play an integral role after he transitions from football. Fraliex, a standout infielder in baseball who hasn't played hoops since his freshman year, will be a senior leader. Talbott will see time at point guard. Dence gives the Knights more size.
"We can play a lot of different ways," Salsman said. "We can go big, or we can go small and quick. We'll be a typical Lexington Catholic basketball team."
As good as the Knights figure to be, Salsman knows the challenge ahead. "In the city, Henry Clay, Lafayette and Dunbar have the best teams they've had in years," he said. "In the region, Madison Central has a great team and Scott County is always good. It's going to take a lot of good luck to get out of this murderer's row."
Nov. 29—Cordia 7:30; 30—at Montverede Academy, Fla.
Dec. 1—at Leesburg, Fla.; 4—DeSales, 6:15; 7—at Lafayette, 8; 12—at Woodford Co., 7:30; 14—at Lexington Christian, 7:30; 19-22—Kruel Classic in Miami, Fla.; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic.
Jan. 5—Bullitt East in Dunkin Donuts Classic, 6:30; 8—Lexington Christian, 7:30; 11—Tates Creek, 8; 15—Lafayette, 7:30; 17—Dunbar, 7:30; 19—at Western Hills, 7:30; 25—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 26—Butler in Louisville Hoopfest at Iroquois; 29—at Dunbar, 8.
Feb. 1—at Clay Co., 7:45; 5—at Madison Central, 7:30; 9—Scott Co., 7:30; 12—at Lincoln Co., 7:30; 15—Wayne Co., 7:30.
Coach: Brad Carter, first year
Last season: 17-12 (lost to Dunbar in district)
Top players: Tyler Harville (5-10 sr.), Jon Lannertone (6-4 sr.), Taylor Blair (6-2 sr.), Matt Rose (6-5 so.), Michael Young (6-5 jr.), Drew Trimble (6-4 so.), Benton Nighbert (6-3 so.), Cody Kalinowski (6-0 jr.), John Stein (5-10 so.), Seth Hampton (6-2 jr.), Drew Schacht (5-9 so.), Brad Calipari (5-10 so.), Brooks Ely (6-0 so.)
Outlook: With wins over Lexington Catholic and Scott County in recent years, LCA has proved it can occasionally beat the big boys in the 11th Region.
Carter, a former assistant in his first year as head coach, wants to build LCA into a contender that can qualify (for the first time) for the region tournament.
The Eagles will try to do that this season with a mix of veterans and inexperienced underclassmen.
Harville (13 ppg), known more as a shooter, has shown he can run the point. "He can really manage this team," Carter said. "He's a great leader, great at building up the guys. He trusts them and they trust him."
Lannertone (9 ppg, 6 rpg) is an inside presence. Blair (6 ppg), who will play baseball at EKU, can be a catalyst. "I want him to play the warrior role, to go out and be an athletic force," Carter said.
Rose has a huge upside with his size and skills. Young gives LCA size inside. The Eagles have a deep bench with several sophomores capable of contributing.
Carter expects his young team to have "growing pains" that will require him to keep things positive.
Nov. 27—Louisville Christian, 8.
Dec. 1—Oldham Co. in Roland Wierwille Shootout at Berea, Noon; 4—at Tates Creek, 8; 7—at Bourbon Co. in Kentucky Bank Shootout, 8; 8—Riverside Christian, 7:30; 11—at Dunbar, 8; 14—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 18—West Jessamine, 7:30; 21—St. Henry in LCA Classic, 8; 22—North Oldham in LCA Classic, 7:30; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
Jan. 4—Dunbar, 6:30; 8—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 11—Lafayette in Central Bank Classic, 8; 12—Windemere Prep, Fla., in Kentucky Bank Classic, 8; 17-19—All "A" region at Sayre; 24-27—All "A" state in Richmond.
Feb. 1—at Lafayette, 8; 5—Tates Creek, 8; 8—Scott Co., 8; 9—Franklin Co., 7:30; 12—at Bryan Station, 8; 14—at Western Hills, 7:30.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Coach: Scott Chalk, first year
Last season: 17-15 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Top players: Will Gary (6-2 sr.), Mike Smith (5-10 sr.), Taylor King (6-7 sr.), Jamal Adu-Peasah (6-3 sr.), Donnie Lewis (6-0 jr.), Eric Trigg (6-5 sr.), E.J. Floreal (6-5 sr.), Darius Williams (6-3 fr.)
Outlook: Chalk, with more than 300 victories in 20 years as a head coach, takes over a program that has its best talent in more than a decade.
High-scoring guards Gary and Smith, who averaged 20 points each last season, are back, although Gary's availability is in question because of knee problems.
Chalk thinks Smith is a great fit at running the show: "A point guard who can make shots, and defensively can really get after people. He's quick and strong."
King is a big man with "lots of athletic ability. He just needs to play closer to the basket and be more aggressive," Chalk said.
Trigg, who sat out last season after transferring from Lexington Catholic, could be the best of the Bulldogs. "He's got really special ability. He's one of the best I've ever coached. He could be super," Chalk said.
Floreal moved to Lexington from California when his dad was named UK's new track coach. He's "very athletic, very fast, very explosive around the basket," according to his coach.
Chalk expects Adu-Peasah and Lewis to be major contributors.
Dunbar, a zone team last year, will go primarily man-to-man this season.
Nov. 27—Woodford Co., 7:30; 30—Southwestern in Jackson County PRTC Classic, 7.
Dec. 2—Cincinnati Taft in Buckeye-Bluegrass Challenge at Thomas More; 4—at Lafayette, 8; 7—at Model, 7:30; 11—Lexington Christian, 8; 13—at Bryan Station, 8; 18—Madison Southern, 7:30; 20-22—Woodford County Invitational; 27-30—Stop DWI Holiday Classic in Binghamton, NY.
Jan. 4—at Lexington Christian, 6:30; 8—at Tates Creek, 8; 10—Henry Clay in S.T. Roach Classic, 6:30; 15—Boyle Co., 7:30; 17—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 19—Christian County in Al Prewitt Classic at Henry Clay, 5:15; 23—Lafayette, 8; 25—Bryan Station, 8; 29—Lexington Catholic, 8.
Feb. 1—Tates Creek, 8; 2—Knox Central at Breathitt Co.; 5—at East Jessamine, 7:30; 7—at Henry Clay, 8; 9—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 12—West Jessamine, 7:30; 15—at Scott Co., 7:30.
Coach: Ted Hall, fifth year (47-53)
Last season: 8-18 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Ray Brewer (6-6 sr.), Duncan Courtney (5-11 sr.), Justin Sanders (6-0 jr.), Ben Davis (5-9 sr.), Henry Wolf (6-3 jr.), Martin Durmov (6-1 jr.), Quinn Pergande (6-3 so.), Jack Henderson (5-11 fr.), Christian Courtney (5-10 fr.).
Outlook: Brewer, Sayre's big man on campus in baseball and basketball, probably won't play hoops after undergoing Tommy John surgery a few months ago. Hall thinks there's a slight chance the 6-foot-6, 250-pound senior could return by mid-season. If he doesn't, the Spartans will sorely miss the 18 points and 11 rebounds he averaged last year.
But Hall said they're not dwelling on Brewer's absence. "That just puts added pressure on everybody. We don't want anybody to feel it's all on them to do things they're not comfortable doing."
Hall instead expects Sayre to "spread the wealth" by "having a different leading scorer most nights. Whoever has a hot hand."
Sanders (7 ppg), a point guard, and Courtney are returning starters. Davis has experience. Pergande will provide inside punch. Durmov and Wolf will also be major contributors.
Sayre will learn its style and identity as the season progresses, and Hall is anxious to see that happen.
Nov. 30—Model, 8.
Dec. 1—Boone Co., 6:30; 4—Frankfort, 7:30; 7—at Paris, 7:30; 10—Garrard Co., 7:30; 14—at Ky. Country Day, 7:30; 21-22—People's Bank Classic at Madison Southern.
Jan. 2—Berea, 8; 5—Anderson Co., 7:30; 8—Henry Clay, 7:30; 11—at St. Patrick, 7:30; 17-19—All "A" region; 22—at Burgin, 7:30; 26—Bluegrass Challenge at Berea; 28—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 29—Monticello, 7:30.
Feb. 2—at Scott Co., 7:30; 4—at Nicholas Co., 8; 5—at Whitefield, 7:30; 9—at Louisville Christian, 5; 11—South Oldham, 7:30; 15—Western Hills, 6.
Coach: Wayne Breeden, fifth year (243-98 overall)
Last season: 12-16 (lost to Lafayette in district)
Top players: Braxton McFarland (6-4 sr.), Jordan Fucci (6-5 so.), Vincent Mattox (6-1 sr.), Evan Davis (6-4 jr.), Landon Love (5-11 sr.), Desmond Duke (5-11 so.), Khiry Shelton (6-6 fr.)
Outlook: Breeden constructs his teams as season-long projects, especially when they're as inexperienced as this year's Commodores.
He expects consistent play from McFarland (8 ppg, 4 rpg) an athletic inside-outside threat. "I've been impressed with his maturity and leadership. He definitely seems ready to have a solid senior year," Breeden said.
Mattox (6 ppg), a part-time starter last year, is a good shooter. Fucci (10 ppg, 8 rpg) could be a double-double guy this season. "Jordan's a competitor, one of the top sophomores in the state," Breeden said.
Love's versatility and hustle will get him playing time. Davis is a scorer from the wing. Duke is a promising point guard. Shelton is a promising freshman.
"The challenge is we have nine underclassmen," Breeden said. "When you have that much inexperience, you do have a lot of enthusiasm, but the question is how long will it take us to learn the speed of the game and adjust to the physicality of the game. Hopefully we'll be ready when the post-season arrives."
Nov. 27—Henry Clay, 8; 29—Montgomery Co. in Mr. Basketball Classic, 8.
Dec. 1—at South Laurel, 7:30; 4—Lexington Christian, 8; 7—at Bryan Station, 8; 11—Lafayette, 6; 14—Woodford Co., 7:30; 17—Bardstown, 7:30; 20-22—Capital City Classic at Western Hills; 27-29—Henry County tournament.
Jan. 4—at Lafayette, 8; 8—Dunbar, 8; 11—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 16—at Franklin Co., 7:30; 19—at Henry Clay in Al Prewitt Classic, 7; 22—Madison Central, 8; 25—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 29—at Madison Southern, 7:45.
Feb. 1—at Dunbar, 8; 5—at Lexington Christian, 8; 7—Bryan Station, 8; 9—Seneca in Shoot for Cure at Nicholas Co., 4; 12—at Western Hills, 7:30; 15—Ryle, 7:30.