Coach Robert Hammonds is beginning his sixth season at the helm of the Cougars boys’ basketball team and hopes that returning four starters from last year’s 17-12 squad will help the Cougars be competitive this year in a very tough 53rd District and 14th Region.
The heart of this year’s team will be returning 6-1 junior Torell Carter, who averaged 28 points per game last year and was named third team All-State by the Louisville Courier-Journal.
“Torell was the fourth leading scorer in the state last year and we expect big things from him again this year,” said Hammonds.
Joining Carter will be seniors Tyler Collins, 6-4, and 5-10 guard Jordan Gregory. The fourth returning starter will be 5-7 junior guard Austin Banks.
“We’ve got some experience this year for the first time and we’ve got some kids off the bench, I think, who are going to help us,” said Hammonds. “We think senior Austin Polly, juniors Sklyer Yonts and Austin Caudill and freshman Gregory Kincer, Tyler Stacy and Elijah Raglin will be able to come in and be productive.
“All those guys, right there, are probably going to see minutes early in the season and then we’ll go from there.”
According to Hammonds, the strength of this year’s squad will be intensity and willingness to work with each other.
“Our strong suit is we get after people and we have good team chemistry right now,” he said. “That’s a big plus when you’ve got experience and everything. Obviously, our drawback is we’re small. We have only one player (Tyler Collins) over 6-1 and rebounding and just (a lack of ) length is going to hurt us against some teams that are much bigger than us.”
Hammonds said he will try to avoid a half-court contest where taller teams can take advantage of his team’s lack of height.
“Obviously, we’ll try to speed it up some this year and press a little more and get after people a little bit more and try to make them rush their shots a little bit,” he said.
Offensively, Hammonds says the team will try to get the ball to where it needs to go — mainly in the hands of Torell Carter, who will continue to draw the bulk of the other team’s defensive pressure.
“Defensively, opponents used a diamond-and-one, triangleand two, box-and-one and all that stuff after Christmas last year to contain Torell,” he said. “Our players understand that Torell is going to get doubled and Torell needs to understand not to press it and to hit the open man. We’ve just got to do a better job of (taking the ball) inside and out. We will be shooting more threes this year but we’ve just got to make sure they’re good looks and not quick shots.”
The Cougars opened their season at home Tuesday against Harlan County. The Cougars are on the road Friday in the first game of a boy/girl doubleheader with the Lady Cougars at Jackson City. Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m.
The Cougars host Prestonsburg next Thursday and travel to Jenkins on Friday, December 11. They return home the next evening, Saturday, December 12, to host Phelps.