High School Sports

Boys’ basketball preview: Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dunbar basketball players from left: Darius Williams, Taveion Hollingsworth, and Jordan Lewis on Tuesday November 24, 2015 in Lexington, Ky.
Dunbar basketball players from left: Darius Williams, Taveion Hollingsworth, and Jordan Lewis on Tuesday November 24, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. mcornelison@herald-leader.com

Last season: 14-15 (lost to Lexington Catholic in semifinals of 43rd District Tournament)

Coach: Scott Chalk (fourth year)

Key contributors:

1. Darius Williams: 6-4, 190 senior guard/forward who led team with 22.4 points per game and shot 39.8 percent from three-point territory last year. Pegged as a top player in the state by the coaches. “Everybody knows he’s pretty explosive and pretty much any night can just go off for 40 or 50 or some ridiculous number,” Chalk said.

2. Taveion Hollingsworth: 6-3, 175 junior guard who returns 20 points a game and 5.7 rebounds from last season. Said Chalk: “He’s coming on and (has) become really special. You can count on what he’s gonna do every night.” Both he and Williams are expected to play at the Division I level.

3. Jordan Lewis: 6-1, 170 senior guard who averaged 8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season. Said Chalk: “Last season he gradually throughout the year got a little bit better. He’s so athletic. I think a lot of people are going to be shocked at how good he plays this year.”

Others to watch: Justin Kelly, senior rock whom Chalk called “a utility infielder.” Dontell Brown, 6-6, 200-pound junior forward/center who averaged 6.1 points and seven rebounds in 2014-15. Vince Clark and Jordan Brown are two more seniors Chalk said “will be a good punch for us off the bench.”

Games you gotta see: Dunbar is going to be a contender in both the King of the Bluegrass tournament at Fairdale and the Traditional Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic. Those will be contested over the final weeks of December. New Albany, ranked No. 2 in Indiana’s Class 4A, comes to Frankfort to take on the Bulldogs as part of the Kentucky/Indiana Hall of Fame Classic. Dunbar will take on Josh Langford (a five-star prospect committed to Michigan State) and Madison Academy on Dec. 5 at the Marshall County Hoop Fest and goes to preseason No. 1 Taylor County on Feb. 13.

Fast facts: Paul Dunbar was the state runner-up in 1993 and 1994. Since then, 1997 was the only season the Bulldogs have advanced to the state tournament.

View the Bulldogs’ roster and schedule

Coach’s corner

‘We’ve got a chance:’ "In this region, you hope to be in a position where you think you’ve got a chance. I think we’ve got a chance this year. Last year, we had a little bit of a chance but we were so immature and started off so bad that I knew it’d be a struggle. But it did come down to (Lexington) Catholic and us having to play in the district. We felt like, and a lot of people felt like, whoever won that game would have a great chance to go all the way. Sure enough, they won it and they did. It was a very close game. What happened at the end of that game is what I hope we’ve learned from and we’ve talked a lot about, was they had seniors who’d played together a long time and they made just the right play. Not a play you run, but the plays you have to make when you’re a senior and you gotta come through in an unexpected situation.”

This group: “They’re a close bunch. They’ve always gotten along well and hung out together. They’re a good bunch to be around and have a good time with.”

Scheduling: “My philosophy is different from a lot of people because I guess I’ve coached in the 11th Region so long. I feel like you need to play the toughest schedule you can possibly play. If you look at our schedule, I guarantee it’s the toughest schedule of anybody in the state. If it’s not, it’s tied with somebody. I think we have two games the whole season where we’re playing somebody who’s not ranked or thought of as being ranked. The entire season! Nobody does that. My feeling is, you’re never going to win this region without playing three really tough opponents in the region and one or two tough opponents in the district. So if that’s what it’s gonna be, that’s five tough games just to get to Rupp. So you might as well and get ready for that kind of intensity every game every night out.”

City’s strength this year: “There’s been a lot of years where we’ve had super-tough Lexington schedules and teams consistently and I think this is going to be one of those again. Bryan Station, Henry Clay, Dunbar, Catholic’s gonna be better than people think by the end of the year, Lafayette’s still good. I think it’s all focused right here and it’s gonna make it exciting. The regular season will be worth watching this year for sure.”

Bench talk

Justin Kelly: On big expectations ... “We want to prove to everybody that we’re one of the top teams in the region cause we’ve gone out to Catholic two years in a row. We really want a lot of revenge on a lot of teams.

Darius Williams: On team’s goals ... “We have really big expectations for this year. We’re trying to get farther than we have these past few years and make a big impact.”

On being picked to win 11th Region ... “We’re not really paying attention to any of that. We’re just working hard every day.”

On activities outside of basketball ... “Work. It’s basketball, basketball, basketball.”

Taveion Hollingsworth: On things they’ve worked on ... “Not starting out slow. Keeping everybody together.”

Jordan Lewis: On the game plan ... “We’re gonna push the ball and just run it.”

Josh Moore: 859-231-1307, @HLpreps