Coach: Mike Allen, second year
Last season: 14-14 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Larry Morton (6-3 jr.), Marcus Williams (6-2 sr.), Tyler Smith (6-3 jr.), Matthew Hunter (6-0 jr.), Jordan Henry (6-0 so.), Marcellous Washington (6-0 so.), Daiquice Allen (6-2 so.), Omari Sweat (6-3 sr.), Darius Waide (6-0 sr.)
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Outlook: Allen said his players had to "learn on the fly" in his first year as coach. He expects the still-young Defenders to be more familiar with his style and discipline this season, and that should translate into more wins.
Morton and Williams are returning starters. Morton (14 ppg, 5 rpg), whom Allen considers a solid college prospect, is still shedding the AAU hoops mentality. "Larry is finding out his game is more than scoring and making plays for himself. He's learning to play not just with the ball, and learning to make his teammates better," Allen said. Williams (7 ppg, 6 rpg) showed his potential last year. "When his head is right, he's one of the best players in the 11th Region," Allen said. "The kid can really play."
Smith will be the (under-sized) man inside. "He's a great rebounder and weak-side defender, runs the floor hard, and keeps those 50-50 balls alive," Allen said. Hunter will stretch the defense with his shooting. Allen is high on sophomores Allen, Henry and Washington. "They could be really good, and they'll have the opportunity to show it because we'll play them a lot," he said. Waide, a veteran point guard, is trying to get his academics in order. Jaylen Beckham, a former standout at Lexington Catholic, spent last season at schools in New Jersey and West Virginia. Allen said there's a chance Beckham could be eligible in January.
Dec. 1—Woodford Co. in Mr. Basketball Classic at Tates Creek, TBA; 2—Pulaski Co. in Mr. Basketball Classic at Tates Creek, 8:15; 6—at Henry Clay, 8; 9—at Tates Creek, 8; 10—vs. Cincinnati Princeton at Newport, 8:15; 15—at Paul Dunbar, 8; 19-22—iHigh Fayette County Invitational; 28—vs. Male in Gatewood Holiday Classic at Montgomery Co.
Jan. 3—Lafayette, 8; 8—Clinton Co. in Kentucky Showdown in Rupp Arena, noon; 10—at Madison Central, 8; 13—at Scott Co., 7:30; 14—vs. Owensboro in S.T. Roach Classic at Dunbar, 3; 18—Henry Clay, 8; 20—at Butler, 8; 21—Breathitt County in Al Prewitt Classic at Henry Clay, 3:30; 23—Montgomery Co., 7:30; 27—Dunbar 8; 30—at Sayre, 7:30
Feb. 1—Scott Co., 7:30; 3—Franklin Co., 7:30; 4—at LCA in Central Bank Classic, 7:30; 7—at Lafayette, 8; 9—Tates Creek, 8; 17—Elizabethtown, 7:30
Coach: Daniel Brown, sixth year (120-91 overall)
Last season: 20-11 (lost to Tates Creek in first round of region)
Top players: Wes Kimball (5-8 sr.), Jordan Green (6-4 so.), Trey Grundy (6-6 so.), Darien Tichenor (6-5 jr.), Christian Cunningham (6-0 so. transfer from Scott County), Alex Blackburn (6-2 sr.), Creed Setzer (5-10 sr.), Teddy Ware (5-10 so.), Campbell Setzer (5-10 so.)
Outlook: "Potential" is the watchword at Henry Clay. After graduating three-year starters Daniel Kiesling, Brandon Nichols, Trae Stewart and Kendrick Prewitt, the Blue Devils' only returning starter is Kimball. The veteran point guard is a dependable scorer who'll be called on to force the action.
Henry Clay's ultimate success, however, depends on highly touted sophomores Green and Grundy. They combined to average 16 points and 8 rebounds in complementary roles last season. "They've got to do a lot more this year," Brown said. "They've got to compete at a high level. Everybody's been reading and hearing about them, so they've got to bring their 'A' game every night. We're just not looking for points and rebounds from them, we're looking for leadership, too."
Tichenor will give Henry Clay additional size and rebounding. Cunningham will start in the backcourt with Kimball. The Devils' depth will come from Blackburn, Ware and the Setzer brothers.
"Talent-wise, we can be as good as anybody," Brown said. "We're big, long and athletic. It's just a matter of getting varsity experience and developing confidence. By the end of the season, we could be a dangerous team."
BLUE DEVILS' SCHEDULE
Dec. 1—at Tates Creek in Mr. Basketball Classic, 8; 3—Madison Southern in Roland Wierwille Shootout at Berea College, 7:30; 6—Bryan Station, 8; 9—Lloyd, 7:30; 16—at Perry Central in Coal Miners Classic, 8; 17—at Hazard in Coal Miners Classic, TBA; 19-22—iHigh Fayette County Invitational; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic
Jan. 3—Scott Co., 8; 10—Sayre, 7:30; 12—Dunbar, 6:30; 13—Mason Co., 7:30; 18—at Bryan Station, 8; 20—at Franklin Co., 8; 21—Tates Creek in Al Prewitt Classic, 7; 27—at Lafayette, 8; 28—at Simon Kenton, TBA; 31—Madison Central, 8
Feb. 3—at Scott Co., 7:30; 7—at Montgomery Co., 7:30; 9—at Paul Dunbar, 8; 11—TBA in Shoot for the Cure Classic at Nicholas Co., TBA; 14—Lafayette, 8; 16—at Clark Co., 7:30
Coach: Mike Mendenhall III, first year
Last season: 9-19 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)
Top players: Jackson Davis (6-8 so.), Nick Trisko (6-8 jr.), Ethan Burlingham (6-8 jr.), Lance Blakely (6-1 so.), Charles Sweat-Washington (6-7 jr.), Tray Chester (6-3 jr.), Shon Wright (6-5 fr.)
Outlook: There are young teams and then there is Lafayette, which had no seniors on its pre-season roster. The Generals have lots of talent and size, however. Mendenhall said it's just a matter of when his team gains experience and confidence. "Our schedule is pretty brutal, so I'm going to put these guys in adverse situations and see how they handle it. We'll take some beatings early, but I expect by February we'll be where we need to be."
Davis, who first saw varsity action as a seventh-grader, averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds last season. He'll play several positions, but mostly be inside. "With his size and ability, he can dominate down low when he wants to," Mendenhall said.
Trisko (5 ppg, 4 rpg) must increase his production considerably. "He'll be called on to do a lot of stuff he hasn't done before," Mendenhall said. The same goes for Chester and Sweat-Washington, who'll get a late start because of football.
Burlingham's size and shooting touch will probably get him a starting job. Blakely will run the point. Robinson and Wright will provide depth. Lafayette's size will make it a strong rebounding team, but it will lack quickness. That'll keep Mendenhall from employing the full-court pressure he learned as a player and assistant at Lexington Catholic.
Dec. 3—Fleming Co., 7:30; 6—at Dunbar, 8; 8—Madison Central, 8; 10—West Carter, 7:30; 13—Tates Creek, 8; 19-22—iHigh Fayette County Invitational; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic
Jan. 3—at Bryan Station, 8; 5—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 7—TBA in Dunkin' Donuts Shootout at Lexington Catholic; 13—LCA, 8; 17—at Tates Creek, 8; 18-21—Toyota Classic at Scott Co., TBA; 24—Dunbar, 8; 27—Henry Clay, 8; 31—at Franklin Co., 7:30
Feb. 2—Lexington Catholic, 8; 3—at LCA, 8; 7—Bryan Station, 8; 10—at Trinity, 8; 14—at Henry Clay, 8; 17—at Christian Academy of Louisville, 7:30
Coach: Brandon Salsman, seventh year (197-84 overall)
Last season: 27-8 (lost to Christian County in Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals)
Top players: Bryan Woomer (5-10 sr.), Craig Floyd (6-5 sr.), Patrick Keller (6-6 sr.), Ross Muncy (5-10 sr.), Jack Whitman (6-9 jr.), Dillon Avare (5-11 jr.), Tom Banahan (6-6 jr.), Robert Dence (6-6 so.), Rashad Bennett (5-9 sr.)
Outlook: The Knights have won the 11th Region three of the past four years, so nobody should sell them short. Especially when they're so tall. "This is the biggest team I've ever had as an assistant or head coach," Salsman said. "We're very big and very talented."
Whitman will be the main man in the post. "I think Jack's ready to have a big year, one of the surprises in the state," Salsman said. "His offensive skills are very good."
Floyd, a starter on the blocks last season, will move to the wing, where he can use his athleticism and three-point shooting. Keller is capable of playing inside or outside. Banahan will be a backup inside. Woomer returns as a starter in the backcourt, but will have an expanded role as a scorer and playmaker. Avare will contribute as a shooter and Muncy as a "sixth starter," according to Salsman.
Lexington Catholic graduated standouts Taylor Martin, Scott Schuette and Seth Beckham, so these Knights are short on overall experience. "That's a concern," Salsman said. "It just means we'll be a lot better in the end than in the beginning. Our goals don't change. We want to win district, region and state championships here."
Dec. 1—LCA, 7:30; 2—Covington Catholic, 7:30; 3—University Heights, 4; 6—at DeSales, 7:30; 10—Dixie Heights in Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon County, 6:30; 12—Woodford Co., 6:30; 20—Bell Co. at McCreary Central's KFC Holiday Classic; 26-30—Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic
Jan. 5—Lafayette, 7:30; 7—TBA in Dunkin' Donuts Shootout at Lexington Catholic; 10—at LCA, 7:30; 13—Tates Creek, 7:30; 14—McCreary Central, 3:30; 19—Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 21—Henderson Co. in Al Prewitt Classic at Henry Clay, 5:15; 27—at Tates Creek, 8; 28—Pendleton Co., 3:30; 31—at Paul Dunbar, 6:30
Feb. 2—at Lafayette, 8; 3—at Clay Co., 7:30; 7—Madison Central, 7:30; 11—at Scott Co., 7:30; 14—Lincoln Co., 7:30; 17—at Wayne Co., 7:30
Coach: Tommy Huston, sixth year (65-68)
Last season: 17-10 (lost to Tates Creek in district)
Top players: Taylor Barnette (6-2 sr.), Tyler Harville (5-11 jr.), Patrick Nickodem (6-1 sr.); Jon Lannertone (6-4 jr.), Taylor Blair (6-3 jr.), Travis Branham (6-3 sr.); Jerry Asberry (5-10 sr.); John Hale (6-1 sr.); John Stein (5-10 fr.); Matt Rose (6-3 fr.)
Outlook: When Huston met with his players' parents, he told them he had good news and bad news: the Eagles could be really good this season, but the competition in the city is "loaded." Huston considers Barnette (17.1 ppg, 6 rpg) a Mr. Basketball candidate. Besides being a scorer, the Central Florida signee is a rebounder and hustler. Huston wants him to get to the free-throw line more this season.
Harville (12 ppg) has developed into a steady point guard who can score from the perimeter and off the dribble. Nickodem, who was sidelined by illness late last season, will be a steadying influence with his experience and all-around game. Lannertone will be LCA's inside presence. He and Branham will be counted on to rebound and defend the post. Huston raves about Blair's ability to play any of the five positions.
After work in the weight room in the off-season, LCA will be stronger this year and play more man-to-man defense. LCA has shown it can play with the best in the region by beating Scott County and Madison Central the past two seasons.
Nov. 29—at Christian Academy of Louisville, 7:30
Dec. 1—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 6—Tates Creek, 8; 10—Paris in Kentucky Bank Shootout at Bourbon County, 1; 13—Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 20-23—Mercer County's Fort Harrod Classic; 28-30—Rock Holiday Classic in Windermere, Fla.
Jan. 5—at Paul Dunbar, 8; 6—at Tates Creek, 8; 10—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 13—at Lafayette, 8; 14—at West Jessamine, TBA; 17-21—All "A" region at Model, TBA; 31—Newport, 7:30
Feb. 3—Lafayette in Central Bank Classic at LCA, 8; 4—Bryan Station in Central Bank Classic, 7:30; 9—at Fern Creek, 7:30; 16—Western Hills, 7:30
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Coach: Justin Yeary, second year
Last season: 10-19 (lost to Lafayette in district)
Top players: Will Gary (6-3 jr.), Jamal Adu-Peasah (6-3 jr.); Mike Smith (5-10 jr. transfer from Sayre), Taylor King (6-6 jr.), Connor McHugh (5-10 so.), Seth Haga (6-2 sr.), Jordan Hurst (6-1 so.), Javone Blincoe (6-2 sr.), Donnie Lewis (5-10 so.)
Outlook: Dunbar could be the most improved team in town. The Bulldogs graduated big contributors Lamont Johnson, Clay Coyle and Sean Lamanna, but return a dynamic player in Gary and add a dynamic transfer in Smith. That duo should help make Dunbar more competitive than when it went 3-15 down the stretch last season.
Gary, who averaged 13 points as a sophomore, is a take-it-to-the-rim slasher who's improved his jump shot. Smith, who led the city in scoring the last two years (19.2 and 22.8 ppg), is fitting in nicely as a newcomer. "It's gone as smooth as we could hope. No problems," Yeary said. "With AAU ball, Mike's played with Will and Jamal, and with social media, he's already friends with everybody."
Adu-Peasah missed his freshman year with an injury, so last season was a learning experience. "We've seen him come a long way," Yeary said. King gives Dunbar size inside. Haga, a football player, provides toughness.
Yeary's main concerns are getting his Bulldogs to move the ball, hit the boards and play with intensity on defense for four quarters.
Nov. 29—Nicholas Co., 7:30
Dec. 3—Danville in 12th Region Showcase at Mercer Co., noon; 6—Lafayette, 8; 9—Model, 7:30; 13—at LCA, 7:30; 15—Bryan Station, 8; 16—at Madison Southern, 7:30; 19-22—iHigh Fayette County Invitational; 28-30—Shirley Kearns Invitational at Model
Jan. 5—LCA, 8; 6—at Mason Co., 6:30; 10—Tates Creek, 8; 12—at Henry Clay, 6:30; 14—Henry Co. in S.T. Roach Classic, 5; 19—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 21—at Boyle Co. 7:30; 24—at Lafayette, 8; 27—at Bryan Station, 8; 31—Lexington Catholic, 6:30
Feb. 3—at Tates Creek, 8; 7—East Jessamine, 7:30; 9—Henry Clay, 8; 11—Harrison Co. in Shoot for the Cure at Nicholas Co., 4; 16—at West Jessamine, 7:30
Coach: Ted Hall, fourth year (39-35)
Last season: 15-10 (lost to Henry Clay in district)
Top players: Ray Brewer (6-6 jr.), Reid Freeman (6-2 sr.), Philip O'Rourke (6-2 sr.), Duncan Courtney (6-0 jr.), Allen Prewitt (5-9 jr.), David McCulloch (6-0 sr.), Ben Davis (5-9 jr.), Ben Turnbull (6-2 sr.), Justin Sanders (6-0 so.)
Outlook: It's been a back-to-the-chalkboard pre-season for Sayre. When Mike Smith, the city's leading scorer as a freshman and sophomore, left Sayre for Dunbar, it put a whole different spin on Spartans' basketball. They were already dealing with the graduation of team leader Cabot Haggin and key contributors Griffin Miller and Griffin Patterson. "We're still figuring out who we are, who we want to be, how we're going to play," Hall said. "We've also got to find some leaders we can depend on when we have adversity. But everybody's optimistic and excited to see what's ahead for this group."
Brewer will be Sayre's low-post force. Hall expects him to ratchet up his production from last season, when he averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds. "We'll have to go to the big guy inside," Hall said. "He's capable of being a double-double guy."
O'Rourke and McCulloch will have to help out down low, especially on the boards. Freeman (9 ppg, 4 rpg) will start at point guard, backed up by Sanders. Prewitt will be a contributor in the backcourt.
Dec. 2—Paris, 7:30; 3—Model, 2:30; 6—at Frankfort, 7; 8—Kentucky Country Day, 7:30; 20—at Anderson Co., 7:30; 28—Boyle Co. in Sayre Holiday Classic, 7:30; 29—West Jessamine in Sayre Holiday Classic, 7:30; 30—Highlands, 6
Jan. 3—at Berea, 7:30; 6—at Boone Co., 7:30; 7—Wolfe Co. in Dunkin Donuts Shootout at Lexington Catholic, 3:30; 10—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 17-21—All "A" region at Model; 24—Burgin, 7:30; 30—Bryan Station, 7:30
Feb. 3—at Pendleton Co., 7:30; 4—Scott Co., 7:30; 6—Nicholas Co., 7:30; 7—Whitefield Academy, 7:30; 11—Christian Academy of Louisville, 7:30; 13—at South Oldham, 7:30; 17—at Western Hills, 7:30; 18—Riverside Christian, TBA
Coach: Wayne Breeden, fourth year (231-82 overall)
Last season: 24-5 (lost to Madison Central in region semifinals)
Top players: Darius Gibson (6-1 sr.), Braxton McFarland (6-4 jr.), Brian Tilford (6-0 sr.), DaiQuan Epps (6-0 sr.), Taylor Grimes (6-2 sr.) Jordan Fucci (6-4 fr.), Vincent Mattox (6-0 jr.), Evan Davis (6-2 so.), Landon Love (5-9 jr.), Blake Rose (5-8 so.)
Outlook: Losing all-staters Marcellus Barksdale and Ryan Fucci to graduation means Tates Creek will be in a rebuilding mode early this season. Breeden notes that 23 of his 30 players are sophomores and freshmen. "You've got to crawl before you walk, and we're still crawling," Breeden said. "Most of our players don't understand what varsity basketball is going to be like."
Gibson and McFarland are exceptions. Gibson started all 28 games last year, averaging 8 points and 3 rebounds. "He'll run the show for us," Breeden said. "He's very quick, an excellent defender, and can create and score off the dribble. We're looking for a great season from him."
McFarland (4 ppg, 3 rpg) is the best athlete on the team. "He's got all kinds of potential, and we're looking for him to play a more expanded role," Breeden said. Tilford will be counted on in the backcourt, along with Epps. Mattox and Davis will provide outside shooting. Love is quick and athletic. A lot will be expected from Jordan Fucci.
While brother Ryan was a guard, Jordan is an aggressive post player. "He's somebody that'll have to play well beyond his years," Breeden said. "The key to our success will be getting our freshman and sophomores to step up and play in probably the toughest district and toughest region, top to bottom, in the state."
Nov. 28—at Bullitt East, 7:30
Dec. 1—Henry Clay in Mr. Basketball Classic at Tates Creek, 8; 2—Buckhorn in Mr. Basketball Classic, 6:30; 6—at LCA, 8; 9—Bryan Station, 8; 13—at Lafayette, 8; 17—at Woodford Co., 7:30; 19-22—iHigh Fayette County Invitational; 27-29—Gaslight Holiday Classic at Jeffersontown
Jan. 6—LCA, 8; 10—at Dunbar, 8; 13—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 17—Lafayette, 8; 20—at Clark Co., 7:30; 21—Henry Clay in Al Prewitt Classic, 7; 24—at Madison Central, 7:30; 27—Lexington Catholic, 8; 31—Madison Southern, 8
Feb. 3—Paul Dunbar, 8; 7—Franklin Co., 7:30; 9—at Bryan Station, 8; 13—Bardstown, 7:30; 17—Ryle, TBA