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High school hoops begins

Boys to open at home

With Letcher County Central graduating only one senior, point guard Cody Gregory, from a seven-player rotation that finished with a very respectable 16-12 mark, Coach Robert Hammonds was expecting six of his top seven players to return this year and held the school contend in a very tough 14th Region.

However, several players have opted out of playing this year, so Hammonds has been scrambling to put together a combination that can compete.

“We had a couple of people who decided to be more ‘sports-specific’ as they got older, and that’s okay,” said Hammonds. “But that’s unfortunate that everybody wants to be a one-sport athlete. But I understand if they think that’s going to be their college scholarship ticket.”

Hammonds said there is still enough young talent to fill in around proven returning starters Chippy Frazier and Josh Owens.

“We’re going to build around them and we’ll go from there,” he said. “We’ve got some good kids that I think are going to be able to step up and help us. We’ve got Jordan Gregory and Jordan Morrow, who can handle the ball some for us. We expect Tyler Collins to help us out a little bit.”

“Our depth will come from a talented bunch of freshmen with good work ethics and attitudes,” added Hammonds. “I expect Torrell Carter to play some major minutes for us. We’ve got good kids but we’re just inexperienced and a little green, and it may take us a little while to get there. These kids have come in the gym and worked hard so far, and that kind of effort may help us attain some goals.” Hammonds is being assisted again this year by Winston Lee, Jerry Bentley and Todd Little. The Cougars’ program continues to be blessed with great off- court support in volunteers Manis Blair, who provides statistics; Robert Lewis, who handles sound/lighting; and Kelvin Eldridge, who handles the announcing duties. David Setzer is the boys’ scorekeeper.

Considering the amount of talent and size and experience returning in the region this year, the Cougars may struggle early just to be competitive.

In the preseason 14th Region coaches’ poll, Knott County Central is picked to repeat as champions, followed by Perry Central, Hazard, Cordia and LCC.

In the 53rd District alone, LCC is picked by region coaches to be third behind Knott Central and Cordia.

Defending regional champion Knott Central (30-6) returns a ton of talent in junior guard Cameron Justice, who has already committed to play Division I basketball with Tennessee. Three other junior starters return.

Cordia (19-10) may be the region’s only “one-and-done” school with new and talented players arriving every year. However, there remains some question of who will be eligible for this year.

In the 54th District, Perry County Central (26-8) will be led by new coach Shannon Hoskins, and two Division 1 recruits in Justin Johnson and Braxton Beverly. Hazard (23-6) returns 6-7 Chris Hudson and Josh Hollan.

“We may not have the size of most schools’ recruiting budgets,” Hammond said jokingly, “but we’ve got some size and length (but) not necessarily bulk size in Josh Owens and Tyler Collins. We’re probably going to have to use a little bit more of an up-and-down game and time our pressing. We’re going to just have to be a smarter team.”

LCC opens the season at home against Jackson City on Friday (Dec. 5), then travels to Clay County to play Corbin on Saturday (Dec. 6).



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