High School Basketball

Boys' high school basketball preview: Lexington teams

Coach: Tommy Johnson, first year

Last season: 13-13 (lost to Henry Clay in district)

Top players: Tequan Claitt (6-2 sr.), Deandre Dishman (6-5 jr.), Andre Davis (6-0 jr.), C.J. Walker (6-0 sr.), Tim Dunn (6-2 jr.), Josh Owsley (6-0 sr.), Rafael Few (5-10, jr.). Mahari Sturgis (6-1 jr.), Chase Caldwell (6-8 sr.), Adrian Gibson (6-2 sr.), Rudy Guy (6-1 jr.), Dallas Bruton (6-2 sr.)

Outlook: Bryan Station has a new coach, but the Defenders' basketball identity is the same as it has been for years. "Creating havoc with our defense, that'll be our bread and butter," said Johnson, who left Franklin County to take over at Bryan Station. 'We're going to take advantage of our athletic ability."

The Defenders will use a bunch of quick guards to force a fast tempo. That group includes Claitt and Walker, who were standout receivers in football. Claitt (11 ppg, 7 rpg) led the team in scoring last year. He's disruptive on defense and a great finisher in transition. "He's also a better outside shooter than I thought," Johnson said. Walker (7 ppg) feasts on defense, too.

Dunn is a three-point threat while Davis can attack the rim. Guy, Owsley, Few and Sturgis are among Bryan Station's back-court troops.

Dishman is the closest thing the Defenders have to a big man, but he's a slender 6-5, not a true post player. Caldwell, a transfer from West Jessamine, will help out in the paint. That'll be a must. Rebounding could be the team's Achilles heel.

"We'll play a lot of guys. We've got quality depth," Johnson said. "One through nine can play. That's what we need with the style we play."

(Bryan Station has a transfer in waiting in Ronnie Carson. He averaged 26 points last season at East Jessamine and is trying to get eligible for the second semester.)

Johnson is plenty familiar with Lexington basketball. He was an assistant to Scott Chalk at Franklin County before Chalk left for Paul Laurence Dunbar. Johnson was also an assistant at Lafayette under Mike Mendenhall for one season. When he was at Franklin County, Johnson coached against Henry Clay, LCA and Tates Creek.

DEFENDERS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2at Rowan Co.; 5DUNBAR; 6Knox Central in Wierwille Classic at Berea College; 9HENRY CLAY; 11TATES CREEK; 20-22Wes Unseld Classic at Seneca; 26-30Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.

Jan. 3Elizabethtown in New Year's Classic at Central Hardin; 6at Lafayette; 9LINCOLN CO.; 10North Oldham in DMD Classic at Frankfort; 13at Henry Clay; 16SCOTT CO.; 20FRANKLIN CO.; 23at Woodford Co.; 27SAYRE; 30at Dunbar.

Feb. 3at Scott Co.; 4PARIS; 10LAFAYETTE; 12at Tates Creek; 14at Haraln Co.; 17at Montgomery Co.; 19LCA.

Coach: Daniel Brown, ninth year (184-123 overall)

Last season: 19-13 (lost to Scott County in region finals)

Top players: Colby Barnes (6-3 sr.), Felix Wilson (6-0 sr.), Isaiah Tisdale (6-1 jr.), Tariq Smith (6-8 sr.) Leander Ridgeway (6-2 jr.), Jordan Houston (6-3 jr.), Walt Smith (6-3 jr.), Dakhari Campbell (5-8 sr.), Walt Finch (6-5 jr.), Justin Mitchell (6-2 fr.)

Outlook: Henry Clay had a major setback when senior star Jeremiah Tisdale, one of the top players in the state, suffered a torn ACL last month. He's out for the season. "We won't have that one guy we can depend on night in, night out," Brown said. "So it's going to take a collective effort. I think we've got a good group with good basketball minds and a good work ethic to do that."

The Blue Devils return a few players who battled Scott County in the 11th Region finals last March.

Wilson (6 ppg) is a veteran point guard. "He's our general," Brown said. "There'll be nights he'll know to get everybody involved, and there'll be nights he'll know to be assertive and score more himself," Brown said.

Barnes (7 ppg, 4.5 rpg) brings toughness and competitiveness to the court from the football field, where he was a standout receiver.

Isaiah Tisdale (4.5 ppg), Jeremiah's brother, is expected to shine at two-guard. He got valuable minutes last year when star Jordan Green was sidelined by injury. Nicknamed "Pun," Tisdale has good mid-range touch and can get to the rim. "What happened to Jeremiah is going to give him a little extra incentive," Brown said.

Ridgeway is good off the dribble, and Campbell is a three-point threat.

Houston will be one of Henry Clay's main inside options on offense. Smith could be a defensive force. Finch will be a physical player.

"We took a big hit losing Jeremiah," Brown said. "We know expectations never change at Henry Clay, regardless. We're moving forward, and I think we're up for the challenge. These kids want to be good players and a good team, and they're willing to work hard to make that happen."

BLUE DEVILS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2at Holmes; 5at Tates Creek; 6East Jessamine in Wierille Classic at Berea College; 9at Bryan Station; 12LOU. EASTERN; 19-22at Seahawk Classic at Hilton Head, S.C.; 26-30Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.

Jan. 2at Moore; 3at Franklin Co.; 7at Sayre; 9at Scott Co.; 13BRYAN STATION; 15at Dunbar in S.T. Roach Classic; 20TATES CREEK; 24BELFRY; 27HARRISON CO.; 28TRINITY; 30LAFAYETTE.

Feb. 3at Madison Central; 6SCOTT CO.; 9at Breathitt Co.; 12DUNBAR.; 14Montgomery Co. in Shoot for Cure at Nicholas County; 17at Lafayette; 19CLARK CO.

Coach: Mike Mendenhall III, fourth year (47-41)

Last season: 18-11 (lost to Henry Clay in first round of region)

Top players: Ross Jenkins (6-6 jr.), Harrison Lane (5-11 jr.), Lucky Jackson (6-1 sr.), Jajuante Carpenter (5-10 so.), Jaelin Jenkins (5-10 jr.), William Watkins (6-2 jr.), Sam Ifeacho (6-6 jr.), Cameron Greenup (6-1 so.), T.J. Downey (5-9 jr.).

Outlook: Jackson Davis, the program's all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker, graduated. Where does that leave the Generals? "We're not going to have the best player on the floor every night like we did last year," Mendenhall said. "But I think there'll be a lot of nights when we're going to have the best team."

Mendenhall considers this roster the best fit to his system and style since he's been at Lafayette. He has a good group of guards, size inside, overall athleticism, and an unselfish attitude among everybody. "It's all where I want it," he said.

Ross Jenkins (5 ppg, 4 rpg last season) will be a post presence. "I think by the end of the year he'll be one of the best big men in the region," Mendenhall said. Watkins will be counted on to help out inside.

Jaelin Jenkins and Downey, a transfer from East Jessamine, will run the point. Lane (7 ppg) is expected to be a more consistent shooter this season. "We kind of threw him to the wolves last year," Mendenhall said. "He'll be more comfortable in his role this year."

Carpenter will be counted on as a scorer, too. Jackson (7 ppg), a star receiver in football, brings athleticism, savvy and leadership to the basketball team.

(Lafayette could get a big boost if Luke Johnson, a 6-4 sophomore transfer from Lexington Catholic, is ruled eligible by the KHSAA.)

While Davis was putting up monster numbers (25 ppg, 14 rpg) last season, his teammates often deferred to him. But when Davis wasn't on the floor, Mendenhall saw the other players step up their games. He expects them to blossom into prime-time players this year.

"We've got a lot of guys who are embracing the opportunity to show what they can do and prove they can play," Mendenhall said.

GENERALS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2at Lincoln Co.; 5MADISON CENTRAL; 6at North Laurel; 9at Dunbar; 11at Grant Co.; 16at Tates Creek; 19Manual at Scott Co.; 20Lawrence Co. at Scott Co.; 22at Scott Co.; 27-29Gateway Classic at Montgomery Co.

Jan. 3LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 6BRYAN STATION; 9TATES CREEK; 10at Frankfort; 13at Lexington Catholic; 16at LCA; 21-24Toyota Classic at Scott Co.; 27DUNBAR; 30at Henry Clay.

Feb. 3at Franklin Co.; 6LCA; 7—PERRY CENTRAL in Jock Sutherland Classic; 10at Bryan Station; 12TRINITY; 17HENRY CLAY; 20BOYLE CO.

Coach: Brandon Salsman, 10th year (263-115 overall)

Last season: 20-12 (lost to Scott County in first round of region)

Top players: Tanner Johnson (6-5 sr.), Jarod Griffin (6-2 sr.), Reese Ryan (6-3 sr.), Michael Talbott (5-1s sr.), Walker Boothe (6-6 sr.), Donovan Morris (6-0 jr.), J.J. Ogbogu, (6-4 jr.), Seth Cambron (6-2 jr.), Peter Whitman (6-7 so.).

Outlook: Lexington Catholic is the pre-season pick to win the 11th Region. "That and $1.50 will get you a soda at a gas station," Salsman quipped. But it'd be difficult to put a price on the Knights' cohesiveness, experience and basketball savvy. "It's a great feeling knowing the camaraderie this group has having played together for so long," Salsman said.

Johnson (20 ppg, 4 rpg last year) is the offensive leader. He's most comfortable firing from the perimeter, but he'll be asked to also work inside as a scorer, rebounder and defender.

Griffin (11 ppg), who broke his wrist in the district finals last year and missed the region, is regarded as the team's defensive stopper, but he's a reliable scorer, too.

Talbott (10 ppg) has developed into a top-notch point guard. He had a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio last year. He's good off the dribble and deciding whether to pass or shoot.

Ryan, a Division I quarterback prospect in football, is the glue that holds the basketball team together. "Once he gets acclimated again, anybody who knows basketball will see how important Reese is to us," Salsman said.

Boothe will be the fifth senior starter. He'll pick up some of the slack left by 6-7 Robert Dence, who graduated. Salsman said Peter Whitman, brother of former Lexington Catholic all-state center Jack Whitman, is "ahead of the curve" as a sophomore.

Morris, another footballer, has athleticism and toughness. Cambron will be counted on as a shooter.

The Knights' greatest asset is their togetherness. "They love each other and play for each another," Salsman said. "It's really neat to watch them when things start clicking."

KNIGHTS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2at Fleming Co.; 5-6at Ohio Shootout at Wilmington College; 9FRANKFORT; 12NORTH HARDIN; 13SCOTT CO.; 16-23at Nike National Tournament in Hawaii; 26-30REPUBLIC BANK HOLIDAY CLASSIC.

Jan. 3at Lafayette; 6at LCA; 9ST. HENRY; 13LAFAYETTE; 15at Tates Creek; 17at Mason Co.; 22DUNBAR; 24WESTERN HILLS; 30TATES CREEK.

Feb. 3at Dunbar; 10at Madison Central; 12LCA; 14CLAY CO.; 15at Scott Co.; 17at Lincoln Co.; 19WAYNE CO.

Coach: Nate Valentine, first year

Last season: 18-12 (lost to Lafayette in district)

Top players: Matt Rose (6-7 sr.), Drew Schacht (5-10 sr.), Drew Trimble (6-8 sr.), Benton Nighbert (6-4 sr.), Joe Davis (5-10 sr.), John Stein (6-0 sr.), Trevor Hill (6-2 jr.), Tre King (6-6 so.), Kyle Rode (6-5 eighth-grader), Austin Dick (6-1 so.)

Outlook: Pride. Discipline. Toughness. Valentine wants those to be the building blocks of success at LCA. The Eagles have talent and depth as they try to become the first boys' team in school history to reach the 11th Region tournament. "We've got a ton of competition for playing time," Valentine said. "We've got nine to 11 guys who could see action."

Rose (18 ppg, 7 rpg last year), who signed with Samford, is LCA's best player. "A tremendous talent," Valentine said. "He can do it all." Trimble (10 ppg, 5 rpg) is long, athletic and versatile. He can shoot the three or post up. Like Rose, he creates match-up problems. Valentine thinks King is ready to blossom as in inside force.

The Eagles are stacked with veteran perimeter players, including Hill, Nighbert, Davis and Schacht. Valentine said Hill is the toughest player on the team, "one guy with a chip on his shoulder."

Valentine is effusive in his praise of Stein, who'll run the offense. "John's a tremendous leader. Class president. Chaplain of the school. A great decision maker. He's a pass-first point guard, but he can make open shots, too."

Bode will get lots of court time despite being an eighth-grader. "Mature beyond his years. Tremendous basketball IQ," Valentine said. "I consider him one of the leaders on this team."

Valentine, a former assistant at Transylvania, is preparing his team for tough times that are inevitable during a long season. "We're creating as many stressful situations in practice so when they hit in a game, we're ready to handle them."

EAGLES' SCHEDULE

Dec. 5LOU. CHRISTIAN; 6at Collins; 9at Tates Creek; 11SCOTT CO.; 13at Paris; 16at Dunbar; 19-21at Woodford County Invitational; 27-30—at Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.

Jan. 3St. Louis Christian in Clem Haskins Classic at Taylor Co; 6LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 9DUNBAR; 10CAMPBELL COUNTY; 13at West Jessamine; 16LAFAYETTE; 21-25ALL "A" REGION; 28—All "A" state in Frankfort.

Feb. 6at Lafayette; 10TATES CREEK; 12at Lexington Catholic; 14at Clark Co.; 16BOYLE CO.

Coach: Scott Chalk, third year (31-27)

Last season: 12-17 (lost to Lexington Catholic in district)

Top players: Darius Williams (6-4 so.), P.J. Corio ( 6-1 sr.), Jordan Lewis (6-0 jr.), 6-4 Dontell Brown (6-5 so.), Taveion Hollingsworth (6-2 so.), Jeremy Ward (6-4 sr.), Vince Clark (5-10 jr.); Tre Penney (6-1 jr.); Jacob Herrin (6-5 jr.), Devin Baker (6-1 sr.)

Outlook: Dunbar struggled to find consistency as a team last season, but the Bulldogs had a consistent scorer in Williams, who averaged 19 points. Williams will be counted on a lot again this season, but he'll have help carrying the load.

Dunbar played a lot of young guys last season and Chalk said they steadily improved "so by the end of the year they knew how to compete, how to play. There's no substitute for experience." That progress continued this summer. "We had a lot more guys who were able to make shots and make plays."

Williams has rounded out his game. "He's a more complete player," Chalk said. "He's passing the ball really well, seeing things better when people double-team him."

Hollingsworth (10 ppg), who started as a freshman, has developed into a reliable scorer. "He's smooth offensively," Chalk said. Lewis has solid point-guard skills. Penney, a quarterback in football, is an explosive athlete. Corio (7 ppg) and Clark are three-point threats, while Kelley, a soccer player, is athletic and versatile.

Brown, a big, athletic football player, has swing-player skills. Ward (4 ppg, 5.5 rpg) and Herrin will help Brown bolster Dunbar's inside game. Even though the Bulldogs aren't very big, Chalk thinks "we could be a good rebounding team because we're athletic and quick. It'll depend on effort, and everybody going after it."

Dunbar is expected to be much improved this season, with more experience, more depth, and a determination to compete in the strongest district in the state.

BULLDOGS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2WOODFORD CO.; 5at Bryan Station; 6at Cov. Scott; 9LAFAYETTE 13Mason County in Robertson Co. Classic at Deming 16LCA; 18-21at Oldham Co. Best in Hoops; 27-29at Ashland Invitational.

Jan. 6at Madison Central; 9at LCA.; 13at Tates Creek; 15HENRY CLAY; 20BOYLE CO.; 22at Lexington Catholic; 27at Lafayette; 30BRYAN STATION.

Feb. 3LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 6TATES CREEK; 7Doss in Jock Sutherland Classic at Lafayette; 10MADISON SOUTHERN; 12at Henry Clay; 17WEST JESSAMINE; 21at Scott Co.

Coach: Rob Goodman, second year

Last season: 18-10 (lost to Scott County in district)

Top players: Quinn Pergande (6-7 sr.), Jack Henderson (6-2 jr.), Alex Webb (6-2 sr.), Robbie Goodman (5-10 so.), Spencer Sabharwal (5-10 sr.), Kaden Silverburg (5-9 so.), Jake Duby (6-3 so.), Will Newton (6-1 so.), Zach Jones (6-5 jr.), Walker Montgomery (6-2 so.)

Outlook: Last year Justin Sanders was Sayre's leading scorer (17 ppg) and go-to guy. "He could make a coach look good with all the things he could do," Goodman said. Sanders and Martin Durmov (10 ppg) graduated, leaving an offensive void.

The Spartans' cupboard is hardly bare, though. Goodman has a deep roster, just not a lot of experience.

Pergrande (11 ppg, 8 ppg) is expected to be the most reliable contributor. He's more finesse than power inside. Goodman wants him to take advantage of all his skills. "He's pretty darn good going after rebounds or taking his man off the dribble. We're emphasizing to the team he needs to get a lot of touches."

Webb, described by his coach as an undersized forward, is a utility guy who can shoot the three. Montgomery isn't big, either, but his aggressiveness makes him effective in the post. Jones will lend a hand inside.

Sabharwal will get the early nod at point, with Silverburg also getting time at the position. Goodman's son Robbie will be the two guard. Henderson is a sharpshooter. "When he's on fire, he's tough," his coach said. Newton, a soccer star, brings athleticism to the court.

Duby may emerge as the x-factor for Sayre, especially as a scorer. Goodman said Duby, a transfer from Lafayette, "gives us somebody who can create his own shot. He's going to log a lot of minutes once he learns the system."

Goodman described his up-and-comers as eager to prove themselves. He tried to shoo them out of the gym in August and September, but they couldn't get enough court time. "Now it's a grind for them," he said. "They're dying to play games."

SPARTANS' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2BOURBON CO.; 6Anderson Co. at Paris; 8at Rose Hill; 12Augusta at Bourbon Co.; 13at Model; 18at Burgin; 19at Ky. Country Day; 22FRANKFORT; 27-30at Henry County Invitational.

Jan. 3—at Morgan Co.; 6BEREA; 7HENRY CLAY; 9BATH CO.; 12WOODFORD CO.; 15at Scott Co.; 22All "A" region at LCA; 27at Bryan Station; 31TBA.

Feb. 2at Tates Creek; 5at Nicholas Co.; 6at Pendleton Co; 10BETHLEHEM; 12at Wolfe Co.; 14at Whitefield Academy; 19ST. FRANCIS; 20WESTERN HILLS

Coach: Wayne Breeden, seventh year (257-138 overall)

Last season: 8-18 (lost to LCA in district)

Top players: Jordan Fucci (6-6 sr.) Desmond Duke (6-1 sr.), Trey Sturdivant (6-1 sr.), Isaiah Patterson (6-5 so.), Darius Barksdale (6-0 sr.), Joe Fay (6-0 so.), Max Sweet (5-8 sr.) LaShawn Wright (6-2 sr.), Robert Gardner (6-3 so.), Landon Porter (6-3 jr.)

Outlook: The Commodores haven't had much fun lately. After three losing seasons in a row, and a 14-40 record over the last two years, they're due some success. Breeden thinks it could be coming soon. "We've got some good size and some experience, and that leads to rebounding and defending," he said. "If you can do those two things, you have a chance to compete night in and night out."

Fucci (16 ppg, 9 rpg) will be a force in the middle. Breeden said Fucci, a baseball standout who has signed with Samford, is also "one of the better basketball players in the state. He's physical, he's strong and he's a tremendous competitor."

Patterson will also be an inside presence as a scorer and rebounder. Gardner will help out in the paint, too.

Duke (10 ppg) returns to run the point. "A good player who's still developing a feel for what he can do and can't do," Breeden said. "If he gets there, he can have a really good senior year."

Sturdivant, who saw a lot of action last year, has improved his skill set. "A great effort player," Breeden said.

Barksdale, Fay, Wright and Sweet will all contribute as role players.

"All good teams play to their strengths and hide their weaknesses," Breeden said. "We should be able to rebound and play defense. And I think with our experience, we'll be better prepared to handle tough situations, and hopefully be able to compete in the district and region."

COMMODORES' SCHEDULE

Dec. 2FRANKLIN CO; 5HENRY CLAY; 9LCA.; 11at Bryan Station; 16LAFAYETTE; 18-21at Paris tournament; 27-30at Berea Invitational.

Jan. 6at St. Henry; 9at Lafayette; 13DUNBAR; 15LEXINGTON CATHOLIC; 20at Henry Clay; 23NORTH LAUREL; 27MADISON CENTRAL; 30at Lexington Catholic.

Feb. 2SAYRE; 3MADISON SOUTHERN; 6at Dunbar; 10at LCA; 12BRYAN STATION; 14RYLE; 18WESTERN HILLS.

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