After coming off a year in which the Indians shared the Big 7 regular-season title and won the District 1-AAA championship, he’s most interested in how the Indians respond to the new role.
2. Tennessee High
3. Science Hill
4. David Crockett
5. Daniel Boone
“It’s something we talk about a lot, our approach to it,” Poore said. “Now that we’ve had success, is that going to breed complacency? If it is, you’re going to underachieve.”
With point guard Marae Foreman (5-6, Sr.) and athletic wing Riamello Wads-worth (6-1, Sr.) on the team, there appears to be little chance of that. The Tribe also features sharpshooter Chase Jenkins (5-11, Jr.), who hit the game-winning shot against Jefferson County in the Region 1-AAA tournament.
At the posts, Brody Potter (6-2, Sr.) and Charlie Browder (6-7, Jr.) give D-B a tough defensive combination. The Indians also have tremendous depth.
Abiah Releford, Brit Thomas and Garrett Sherer will be in the starting lineup in some games, while others like Jaden Alderson and Braxton Kulbacki provide even more depth. Zane Whitson, the younger brother of Lady Indians star Courtney Whitson, is a good outside shooter, and D-B picked up Jared Strickland, who starred for KACHEA last season.
“There are a lot of options for our guys,” Poore said. “Charlie is probably our only true post. He will be a staple in our offense. But we have shooters and guys who can make plays with the basketball. Right now, we’re having some good practices. We’re dividing the guys up and they’re going at it on a daily basis.”
The Vikings return the leading scorer on two teams from a year ago. Senior Christian Webb paced Tennessee High’s offense and the Vikings added transfer McHale Bright, who was David Crockett’s leading scorer last season.
Besides that 1-2 scoring punch, Tennessee High also features guard Cade Mitchell, wing Cole McBrayer and 6-7 Nolan Wishon in the post. Brandon Brown, Aidan Carter and Blake Fauver should see starter minutes, and the addition of Preston Quillin, a transfer from KACHEA, provides even more firepower.
Roby Witcher says all 13 of his varsity players can do something positive.
“We’re skilled. We can shoot it, score it and run the floor,” the coach said. “Sometimes you have people who can shoot it, sometimes you have people who can handle it and sometimes you have experience. We have all of that and I think we will be competitive every night out.”
The Hilltoppers won a fourth straight Region 1-AAA title last season, but they were hit hard by graduation and suffered another blow when point guard Jerriah Love moved to Georgia.
Will Stevens has taken over the starting point guard role Love held last season. Marquis Griffin is the backup point guard, and Jordan McCloyd is playing both the point and at wing. Shane Austin is a defensive specialist and Andrew Miller has been coming on with his shooting range.
Kendle Cutlip (6-3, Sr.) has added muscle and he gives Science Hill range on both ends of the floor. He, along with Jake Matherne and Drew Morrison, offer the Hilltoppers an option of a strong inside game.
“We’ll do what we feel like gives us the best chance to win,” coach Ken Cutlip said. “We’ve got some really good length, including our underclassmen. That will be a big change because we were small last year and it made it difficult in some of our presses. We’ve got the length and now the question is do we have the speed.”
Amidst the Pioneers’ historic football season, Crockett’s potential to be a contender on the hardwood has been overlooked. Four players — John Kollie, Prince Kollie, Donta Hackler and Mark Seidler — are key figures in the football team’s success but also are expected to lead on the basketball floor.
In their absence at the Big 7/Three Rivers jamboree, the Pioneers went with a starting lineup of all guards — Mack Hensley, Eric Dunbar, Ayden Begley, Mason Britton and Dawson Wagner. What the Pioneers lack in size this season, they look to make up for with speed and tenacity, playing a style coach John Good prefers.
“We have a lot of kids who give effort and compete and that’s what we’re going to try to do,” Good said. “We’re going to be able to put the ball in the basket a little better than last year. Hopefully, we can stop the other team. The kids have been working hard and they’re eager to get started.”
Last year’s leading scorer, Chad Heglar (6-4, Sr.), returns for the Trailblazers, but they must fill the scoring roles left by the graduation of Eric Rigsby and Jared Lawson.
Derek Percell (5-8, Sr.) is running the point for Boone, whose other starters are Judah Hilton, Jared Adkins and Marshall Golden. All are listed as guards. The ’Blazers don’t have a true inside post player, although the majority of the lineup is 6-foot or taller. Colby Backus, a 6-2 junior forward who transferred from Providence Academy, should give Boone another scoring threat, and Cade Norris is expected to contribute off the bench.
“Chad will be the focal point of everybody’s game plan, so other guys will have the opportunities to make shots,” coach Chris Brown said. “We know some of the matchups defensively is going to be an issue, so that’s something we’ve been working on. This is the most balanced league in a while, so it’s going to be competitive.”
With the return last season’s Big 7 player of the year, Ryan Bledsoe, and 6-11 post player Wyatt Watson, the Chiefs could challenge expectations. Joining them in the starting lineup are fellow senior Bailey Broyles and sophomores Jacob Kenner and Breiydon Gilliam.
Four players from the junior class — Joe Nichols, Collin Trent, Jon Fulkerson and Micah Jones — also suit up.
Bledsoe remains the team leader, although the goal is to shore up the support around him.
“Ryan carried the scoring load for us last year,” coach Ty Webb said. “We look for him to continue to do what he did, as well as doing more on the defensive end. A lot of teams will run multiple guys at him. We have to have some of these other guys step up a little bit.”
There is plenty of excitement in Church Hill after legendary coach Mike Poe took over Volunteer’s program. But Poe, who guided Science Hill to a state championship game before coaching at Tennessee Wesleyan for the past 14 years, faces some challenges.
Chance Johnson leads the Falcons at the point with fellow seniors Leyton Patrick, Ethan Dean, Peyton Baker and Creed Christian in starting roles. Juniors Eli Churchwell and Brody Hunley could play lots of minutes. Zack Evans has the versatility to play both the 1 and 2 positions, although freshman Heath Miller is listed as the backup point guard.
Poe is embracing his new challenge.
“I’ve had more fun than I’ve had in years,” he said. “I’ve taken seven teams to the national tournament in college and I’m glad I got to experience that. Now, it’s more about I want to teach basketball and give something back to the community I grew up in.”