Last season: 21-12 (lost to Bryan Station in second round of 11th Region Tournament)
Coach: Mike Mendenhall (fifth year)
1. Ross Jenkins: Senior forward who led Generals in scoring (13 points) and rebounds (7.9) last season.
2. Harrison Lane: Senior guard who was second on the team at 12 points a game. He and Jenkins are three-year starters.
3. Jaelin Jenkins: Senior point guard who started as a junior. “I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the region,” Mendenhall said. “He does a good job of controlling the game and controlling the tempo and getting us to where we need to be. He’s not going to put up big numbers but I don’t have anybody who’s going to put up big numbers.”
Others to watch: Jajuante Carpenter, sophomore guard; T.J. Downey, junior guard; Will Watkins, junior guard/forward. “We’re a really balanced team. I like that ability to where you can’t key on any one person. Ross will be the best big kid in the city but we’ve got a lot of kids on the outside that can fill it up.”
Games you gotta see: The Generals host 12th Region favorite Mercer County on Feb. 6 before going to 7th Region contender Trinity on Feb. 12. Sandwiched between that? An out-of-district battle with Bryan Station at home on Feb. 9.
Fast facts: Mendenhall said Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman “is like a brother to me.” Salsman even babysat Mendenhall when he was a child. The teams, within easy walking distance from each other’s campuses, meet at LexCath on Jan. 12 and at Lafayette on Feb. 2.
Getting to Rupp: "When I took over we were 9-18 or something and we’ve extended our wins each year I’ve been here. This year’s all about taking that next step. We’ve been contenders; now we’re trying to get to Rupp Arena. I think we’ve got a great opportunity after losing only one kid, Lucky Jackson. He was kind of a soul of the team so I’m really looking for someone to step up and fill that leadership void. ... Their expectation is to win, which wasn’t always the case when I got here early.”
Tough schedule: “Our district is really ridiculous. Our region is even worse but we’ve got a chance. You just want to make it to the region. Get there and you’ve got a chance. I think we’re starting to understand what it takes to win consistently night in and night out in our district and the region. Playing in the hardest district in the state, you’ve got to bring it every game. On top of that we play each city school twice so we’ve got Henry Clay and Bryan Station as well.”
Pressure: “You just try to bring it up as much as you can in practice and try to bring up examples in the past of teams that came in with high expectations and didn’t reach that ultimate goal. In the 11th Region there’s so many examples of that happening because it’s so difficult to get through it. I think the kids understand that it’s going to be a hard journey but if you get through it you know you’ve got a chance to win it all.”
Harrison Lane: On what Lafayette wants to do this year ... “We wanna achieve our ultimate goal, which would be getting to the state tournament. Being in one of the toughest districts we realize that’s our first step, then getting to the region tournament and just going game by game by getting prepared early on in the season so we can achieve something like that later.”
On the Generals’ strengths ... “I think our guards. We’ve got four or five upperclassmen at the guard spot. I think that really helps for when we need rest but still want to get after people. Then Ross down low. Having a strong post presence is very helpful.”
On Coach Mendenhall’s best ability ... “I think (emphasizing) the leadership aspect. We’ve got five seniors and we’re pretty close as a team. Being vocal, making sure everybody knows what they’re doing. I think that’s one thing he’s really putting onto the seniors, especially us three.”
Ross Jenkins: On the 11th Region ... “It’s tough, but it really helps prepare us for later in the season when every game you’re going against a top-15 team in the state. You’re gonna be battle-tested by the time February and March come around.”
On who he’s most excited to play ... “I’d say Lexington Catholic. We’ve lost to them two straight years in the district championship. It’d be nice to get another shot at them this year.”
On his go-to move ... “Right hook. (Lane interjects: “You can’t be giving away all our secrets. We gotta keep that on the DL.”)
Jaelin Jenkins: On the team’s strengths ... “Everybody on the floor can play. We have a chemistry that’s stronger than most teams in the state. And most of all we play as a team and communicate to help us get through games.”
On who’s he excited to play ... “I’d say Dunbar because everytime someone’s talking about teams, Dunbar’s the head of the 11th Region, but I think we can beat ’em. We have something to prove ’cause everybody keeps overlooking us and we didn’t lose anybody last year except for one player.”
On Lafayette’s expectations ... “We just want to take it one game at a time and just improve as much as we can so when the postseason comes we can excel and hopefully get a ring.”