Last season: 21-11 (lost to Lexington Catholic in semifinals of 11th Region Tournament)
Coach: Daniel Brown (10th year)
1. Pun Tisdale: Senior with great leadership ability. “He’s one of the best scorers to come through Lexington,” Brown said.
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Tisdale’s expectation’s for the season? “I definitely want to make it out of the region. We’ve been knocking on the door for years and I’m trying to make it out.”
2. Lee Ridgeway: Senior “who’s improved so much” to the point that he’s not too far behind Tisdale in terms of impact. “Leander provides another solid punch,” Brown said.
“At the end of the day the goal is to get a three-peat and go to state,” Ridgeway said of the approaching season. “I think that’s very obtainable to reach.”
3. Jordan Houston: A big-bodied senior with starting experience. “He passes real well and understands the game,” Brown said. “Those guys are gonna be really counted on.”
Others to watch: Justin Mitchell, a 6-3 guard who Brown says is “probably one of the best sophomores coming up in our area.” Senior Paul Price, who took a couple of seasons off, has returned. JaQuise Simpson, Krizell Mitchell, Jordan Jones and Walt Finch help round out a group of athletic seniors “who understand what it takes to win.”
Games you gotta see: The Blue Devils will take part in the always-stacked Republic Bank Holiday Classic. They receive a first-round bye in that tournament and will meet the winner between Caverna and Bullitt Central. A win there would set up a date with one of three potential Sweet Sixteen teams on Dec. 27: Trinity, Newport Central Catholic or Lawrence County. Henry Clay also goes to Trinity on Jan. 26.
Fast facts: Henry Clay last reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2005, making them the most recent Lexington public school to do so. ... Coach Brown led the state in scoring in 1992 at Nicholas County and went on to have an All-America career at Berea College.
Experience matters: “If you’ve got an older team, you hope that they’ve had success with your team before and felt that region. Two of our players played in the region finals two years ago when we got beat. They played in the region semis last year when we got beat. They’ve seen us get to where we want to get and win one of the toughest districts back-to-back years. To win it a third year in a row would be unheard of, especially when you’ve got powers like Scott County and Bryan Station in there. To continue to be able to do it, I think they’ve gotta feel that.
“Year in and year out, teams that win the region tend to have very good seniors. This year you’ve got some teams with some good seniors. That’s why you see Dunbar ranked high. You look at Lafayette, they’ve got three or four starters that are seniors and played a lot of games together. I’ve got eight good seniors, probably the oldest team I’ve had, so we feel like we’ve got a good shot at it. Bryan Station, Deandre and Andre are real good seniors. And then you’ve got other teams with tradition like Scott County, Catholic and Central — you can never throw anybody out in the 11th Region. So I’ll try to prepare ’em, pray to the basketball gods and hope the ball bounces your way. Sometimes you need a little luck.”
Pun Tisdale: On his nickname ... “I got that when I was a kid. There was a rapper named Big Pun. He was real big and I was big when I was a baby.”
Lee Ridgeway: On what NBA team Henry Clay most resembles ... “We like to get up and down but we like to go half-court sometimes. NBA team-wise? I’d probably say the Cavs. The Cavs like to go up and down. But then they can slow it down, set up their offense and run the fast break. That’s how we are.”