In addition to preparing their players for an upcoming season, area coaches — including four in their current position for the first time — are having to do so under the specter of a shutdown due to rising COVID-19 cases as the pandemic continues to spread.
The common thread among all coaches and players is there is hope for the season to go on, with several teams harboring high postseason aspirations.
Here is a glance at all 11 area boys basketball teams for the season ahead, which is scheduled to tip off for several schools Tuesday:
Head Coach: Marty Carroll (3rd season); 2019-20: 15-10, Madison County champion; Key Losses: Rylan Metz (10.6 points per game), Trevor Simison (3.1 ppg), Cade Vernetti (9.8 ppg), Nick Williams (8.6 ppg), Brennan Morehead (13.6 ppg); Key Returning Players: Kole Stewart (8.8 ppg), Jagger Orick (6.4 ppg); Newcomers to Watch: Kaigan Hawkins, Brayden Jacobs, Gabe Scott.
Outlook: “With a really young team this year, we are hoping to get the opportunity to play,” Carroll said. “We feel like we are behind because of our youth and that toll that Covid took on our summer. I realize it’s going to be tough on everyone. We just hope for the chance to play and improve.”
Head Coach: Don Bowling (1st season); 2019-20: 2-18; Key Losses: Dayveon Turner (15.8 ppg), Joseph Jones (15.9 ppg), Eric Troutman (5.1 ppg); Key Returning Players: James Glazebrooks (2.9 ppg), Ty Wills (8 ppg), Kedrick Anderson (5 ppg); Newcomers to Watch: Jaylen Murphy, A.J. Beyman; Potential Breakout: Anderson.
Outlook: “Our goal is to improve every game and compete for a Madison County championship, NCC and sectional championship,” Bowling said. “These kids have a chance to be special. We just have to win some games and get confidence. We have the talent. The kids will just have to work.”
Head Coach: Corey Scott (8th season); 2019-20: 3-18; Key Losses: Mason Watson (2.2 ppg), Alex Bernard (7 ppg); Key Returning Players: Jack Scott (15.4 ppg, 10 rebounds per game), Larry Rodriguez (10.2 ppg), Jeffery Langford (13.2 ppg), Hayden Hornocker (2.7 ppg); Newcomers to Watch: Derek Dailey, Aiden Wilson, Ben Scott; Potential Breakout: Rodriguez.
Outlook: “We are just taking it one day at a time,” Coach Scott said. “We consider each day we are in the gym a victory. We have some experience, and we are excited to see what that can bring to our season. Our biggest goal is to get as much of our season in as possible and enjoy every opportunity we have to play.”
Head Coach: Tyler Stotler (4th season); 2019-20: 10-14; Key Losses: Connor Fleming (8.3 ppg); Key Returning Players: Cam Leisure (10.3 ppg), Tim Arnold (12.5 ppg), Trevion Johnson (8.7 ppg), Cayden Gothrup (7 ppg), Keaton Ferrell (2.5 ppg), Zane Starkey (1.7 ppg); Newcomer to Watch: Merrick Adams; Potential Breakout: Gothrup.
Outlook: “This is by far the most athletically well put together team I’ve had in my time at Daleville,” Stotler said. “I love this team. This is the team I feel I’ve been building toward since that first year.”
Head Coach: John Kelly (1st season); 2019-20: 0-24; Key Losses: Trenton Porter; Key Returning Players: Jayden Reese, Ben DeLong, Gage Blackford, Will Retherford, Mason Robison, Colton Limoges; Newcomers to Watch: Zane Henry, Braydin Harris, Isaac Casas, Luke Jones, Jackson Blackford; Potential Breakout: Robison.
Outlook: “Those seniors (DeLong, Robison, Limoges) are going to have to play big for us this year because we don’t have a lot of size, which is going to hamper us a little bit,” Kelly said. “But, we’re going to be quick. … We’re going to try to get up and down the floor, and we’re going to try to be more aggressive defensively.”
Head Coach: Brent Brobston (13th season); 2019-20: 14-11, sectional runner-up; Key Losses: Ethan Bates (14.5 ppg); Key Returning Players: Ayden Brobston (13 ppg, 8.8 rpg), Luke Sheward (7 ppg), Zach Davenport (5.9 ppg), Ryan Smith (1.9 ppg), Bryce Hodson (6.3 ppg), Jacob Davenport (5.9 ppg); Newcomers to Watch: Blake Mills, Harrison Schwinn, Eli Manies, Colin Gardner; Potential Breakout: Schwinn.
Outlook: “We feel we have an experienced team back with great expectations,” Coach Brobston said. “We have a team willing to work hard to improve each day in order to be playing our best basketball come tournament time.”
Head Coach: Jimmie Howell (17th season); 2019-20: 14-10; Key Losses: Carson Huber (12.2 ppg), Noah Frazier (3.6 ppg), Kolby Bullard (14 ppg), Cole Alexander (6.8 ppg), Bryce Carpenter (6.1 ppg), Gage White (3.7 ppg), Blake Mills (6.9 ppg); Key returning players: Caden Eicks (4.3 ppg), Corbin Renihan (3.2 ppg), Landon Bair (1.5 ppg); Newcomers to watch: Griffin Craig, Camren Sullivan, Noah Hudson, Chase Landis, Brayden Barnett, Nathan Miles, Jake Paska, Nick Witte, Tyler Dollar; Potential Breakout: Renihan, Sullivan, Craig, Dollar, Paska.
Outlook: “We have good players in the program but few with varsity experience among them,” Howell said. “This is probably the least amount of returning varsity experience we have had in my tenure at Lapel. However, our JV team won 17 games last year, and it is their turn to play at the varsity level.”
Head Coach: Jason Chappell (17th season); 2019-20: 12-12; Key Losses: Cade McCord (9 ppg), Landan McCord (4.4 ppg), Kenny Lofton (2.6 assists per game); Key Returning Players: Aidan Smith (2.4 ppg), Christian Nunn (20.1 ppg, 8 rpg), Josh Cabello (6.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Adonis House (9.3 ppg, 7 rpg); Newcomers to Watch: Tyler Houk, Beckham Chappell, Xavier White, Jaden Peete, Zack Jeffers, Cedric Anderson, Tae’Shaun Menifield, Spencer Lamb, Eric Troutman; Potential Breakout: Nunn.
Outlook: “Right now, our goal is to be able to play and play safely,” Coach Chappell said. “Our schedule could be totally changed by the end of the season. Quarantines could create some interesting matchups. The kids’ attitudes have been great, which is giving me hope for a strong season. We have a lot of talent, but it will take a season to put the puzzle pieces together.”
Head Coach: Kevin Cherry (1st season); 2019-20: 12-11; Key Losses: None; Key Returning Players: Kaden Howell (14 ppg), Grant Brown (13.6 ppg, 6.3 apg), Lance Wilson (11.6 ppg), Jackson Manwell (8.3 ppg), Justin Moore (9.5 ppg), Seth Lugar (6.6 ppg); Newcomers to Watch: Jase Howell, Myer Miller, Teagan Yeagy.
Outlook: “Our goal is to get better as a program every day,” Cherry said. “We are building a culture in our program that we want to compete for a conference and sectional championship year in and year out. Competing to win the Grant 4 tournament each year is also a goal. With the basketball talent and the high level of coaching in our area, especially in the CIC conference, we cannot afford to focus on anything outside of the program and only worry about the things we can control.”
Head Coach: Adam Ballard (1st season); 2019-20: 8-16; Key Losses: Tristan Ross (14.6 ppg, 10.3 rpg); Key Returning Players: Jamison Dunham (15.1 ppg), Ethan Ross (4 ppg), Luke Candiano (4.6 ppg), Evan John (3.3 ppg), Luke Weaver (5.6 ppg); Newcomer to watch: Josiah Gustin; Potential Breakout: Dunham.
Outlook: “I am very excited to work with this team. We have made great improvements in a short period of time,” Ballard said. “Our players are working hard and adjusting to new methods and philosophies of how to do things. I am looking forward to our development throughout the season and expect to compete at a high level come March.”
Head Coach: David McCollough (6th season); 2019-20: 23-2, Henry County, MEC, sectional championships; Key Losses: Jackson Campbell (8.6 ppg), Colton Monday (1.9 ppg), Blake Surface (1.6 ppg); Key Returning Players: Kaden McCollough (12.7 ppg), Andrew Bennett (15.7 ppg, 5.9 apg), Jakeb Kinsey (15.5 ppg), Kameron Graddy (9.5 ppg), Jasper Campbell (4.1 ppg), Tanner Goff (0.9 ppg); Newcomer to watch: Michael Howard; Potential Breakout: Howard.
Outlook: “We have a solid core returning with a couple speed bumps to overcome at the start of the season with injuries,” Coach McCollough said. “We have a very good and experienced trio of guards in McCollough, Bennett, and Kinsey, who have proven themselves as scorers and playmakers. … We have a little size in Graddy, Howard and Campbell, who have valuable experience and can provide scoring and rebounding.”