November 22, 2012

Youthful Tigers to Unveil New Look as 2012 Hoops Season Tips Off

Jacob Howard returns to fill a key role for the 2012-13 Tigers.

What a difference a season can make.

Heading into the 2011-2012 basketball schedule, Scotland County had high expectations pinned to a starting lineup that featured five seniors.

Unfortunately for SCR-I that talented group of upper classmen played together for a grand total of one and a half games before injuries derailed the season in the Novinger Tournament.

By the end of the year, three of the seniors were on the bench in street clothes due to injuries, with two missing much of the year with season-ending surgeries.

While seniors Harley Stone and Andrew Mathes went on to earn all conference honors, it wasn't enough as the Tigers limped to an 11-14 record and a first-round exit in district play.

The 2012-13 version of the Tigers will feature zero seniors, and an entirely new starting lineup from last year's season opener.

"Unfortunately last year we had some early exits once again due to the injury bug," Campbell said. "Obviously that hurt us, but the silver lining for this season was that several kids were able to gain playing time and experience."

Cordie Kigar moved into the starting lineup in game three after senior Derek Muntz went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Brice Cowell was forced into a similar role after Brock Bondurant's season was ended at the Christmas break with shoulder surgery.

Now juniors, the tandem will be counted on to lead a very young Tigers team that Campbell says should only get better as the season progresses.

A third junior, Lucas Howard, worked his way into the varsity rotation midway through last year, and appears to have a leg up on the competition for another of the starting roles along with sophomore Jacob Blessing. The later filled in for point guard Drew Miller last season as a back-up before being forced into the starting lineup at the end of the year after a season-ending foot-injury to the senior.

"That was kind of a reoccurring theme last year, Campbell said. "We had a lot of kids thrust into key roles due to injuries."

Entering his fifth season at the helm of the Tigers, Campbell says the young squad has given him the opportunity to start over.

"Not only is our starting lineup going to be changed from last year, the entire system is totally new," he said. "I think we have one inbounds play that is the lone holdover from what we did last year, everything else is brand new. So there has been a lot of learning going on at practice."

Campbell said the young team offers him the luxury to make the transition, as everyone on the roster has at least one more year to grow into the new system.

The plan is to use the rosters four juniors and five sophomores to complete the varsity schedule while working to keep a talented freshman squad together at the junior varsity level.

"I think there are two or three freshmen who could probably help us at the varsity level, but my goal right now is to keep them at the jayvee level to allow them to grow and improve as the top options instead of having them move up and play more secondary roles. Obviously that can change if the situation dictates it, but my preference is to keep them together."

With nine upper classmen, Campbell's plan will be made a little easier.

Junior Chris Jackson will give the team depth at the guard position. Campbell hopes he brings plenty of games like his performance against Milan last year, when he nailed three, three-pointers late in the contest to rally his team.

Bailey Johnston and Will McRobert both saw limited varsity time as freshmen last year. They will provide depth at the post position this year, while fellow sophomores Kyler Burkhiser and Jacob Hull will see time at the guard spots.

"These guys haven't had a lot of success over the past few years," Campbell said. "So we are going to have to learn how to win. Who knows what to expect... I just know that these guys have worked extremely hard and have been the most unselfish bunch of players I've worked with."

That type of team work should translate into plenty of victories in the future as this young team continues to grow and improve.

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