November 18, 2010

Past Youth Movement Could Pay Dividends in 2010 For Tigers Hoops Squad

Heading into the district championship game last season, SCR-I had just one of its three senior starters on the court. While the team saw its title hopes slip away, the future definitely got brighter for the Tigers hoops squad in the process.

Several key injuries took their toll on the 2009-10 version of the Tigers, but those same problems should look like strengths for the upcoming year as young players will benefit from the experience they gained by being pushed into key roles down the stretch.

Drew Miller was thrust into the starting point guard role following Christmas break when Senior Cody Taft left the program. As a sophomore, he not only grasped the duties as the floor general but also gained confidence as a shooter.

Miller connected on 34% of his three point attempts, giving the team a dangerous attack from behind the arc.

That scoring threat starts with Kasey Dial, who returns for his senior season after leading the Tigers in scoring last year at 11 points per game. He made a team-high 66 three pointers.

The team will have to replace its other two top scorers, graduates Brandon Garnett and Kyle Shelley. Shelley averaged 10 points and a team-best 7 rebounds a night before missing the final four games of the year with a hip injury.

Garnett averaged 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds a contest from the small forward position.

Andrew Mathis and Brock Bondurant saw their playing time dramatically increase down the stretch after the loss of power forward Derrick Muntz early in the year to knee surgery and with Shelley's season-ending injury.

"We have a lot of size, so we are definitely going to look to pound it into the paint to Brock and Mathis and Muntz and Stone," Campbell said.

Harley Stone started all 26 games for the Tigers at power forward. As a sophomore he average 7.4 points and 5.6 rebounds, numbers Campbell said he expects will grow this year.

"Harley has really came into practice and been our hardest worker," Campbell said. "If not him, I would have to say Sabe Sears. Those guys set the tone with their work ethic."

With Muntz returning from his knee injury, Campbell has several options to replace Shelley at center. Mathis played very well down the stretch for the Tigers, so Campbell has a pair of juniors who will split time in the post.

That depth on the interior could free the Tigers up to play a much bigger lineup as Stone can move out to the perimeter when needed. Bondurant also fits a similar role, being able to play either inside or outside, as attested to by his team-best 45% accuracy from three-point range.

"We definitely have the ability to go with a big line-up that can create some match-up nightmares for other teams," Campbell said. "We don't have to predicate one certain style of play or one certain system. Our versatility is going to let us play a lot of different styles."

The Tigers have three senior options to fill Garnett's starting spot. Dakota Wells came off the bench last year to connect on 25 three pointers, second on the squad only to Dial. Seniors Sabe Sears and Rod Sears give coach Campbell some interesting options at the guard spots. Both players bring an athleticism to the team that more resembles Garnett's slashing style. Sophomore Lee Tague also will factor into the rotation at the guard and small forward spots.

The competition for playing time has given the early season practices a good edge that Campbell thinks will pay off in the long run.

"When you have five guys fighting for two or three jobs, it insures you are going to get hard work out of all of them," he said. "All of these guys are competing for playing time every night at practice. It is a great problem for a coach to have."

With a solid mix of four seniors, five juniors and one sophomore expected to make up the varsity roster, Campbell likes the direction the program is headed in.

"Most of the kids have been in our system now for three or four years, which is very nice," he said. "They know by now what we are trying to do, freeing up our practice time to add to our growing playbook."

That playbook should call for an improvement on last year's 12-15 mark, as the Tigers are expected to contend for a Tri-Rivers Conference title while trying to avenge last year's loss to Putnam County in the district championship.

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