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By Todd Martin/Sentinel-News Sports Editor
Seniors will carry load, but sophomores will need to be big part
The Shelby County boys' basketball team is loaded with sophomores and seniors, a combination that head coach Mike Clark likes.
"We've got a very talented sophomore class and the best thing is that we've got a very talented senior class to go with them -- provide leadership and show them how we do things."
The senior class has been a little short on the preseason with Alex Matthews, Coty Minnis and Jon Mark Scott playing on the football team, but Clark noted that he has seen exceptional leadership so far from the team's other two seniors Tim Sanford and Alex Shehan.
He also noted that the football team's run could help the basketball team as the season goes on.
"The one thing that transcends from football to basketball is that competitive level," he said. "They way our guys came back against Scott County and the way they performed under pressure at Madison Central, those are things that will help our basketball team."
Missing several key components in the preseason gave Clark and the coaching staff a great chance to see how some of the younger players will respond against varsity competition.
"We've had a chance to focus on Norris (Boomer) Beckley and Cache Tomlinson at guard and Donovan Johnson and Eric Standafer at forward. I've been very pleased so far with how our sophomores have responded."
The Rockets will also get another big addition at forward with Nigel Beach coming out after football.
While the seniors will be the key, Clark said he expects his sophomores to be an integral part of the Rockets' success this year.
"Coty Minnis has to be our go to guy," Clark said. "He's one of the best athletes not only in our region but in the state. He averaged double digits for us last year with 11 points and he added eight rebounds. We're certainly going to need him to score, defend and rebound. He's a very tough match-up at (forward) and he's a very explosive scorer and strong rebounder. He's got the ability to have one of those regional player-of-the-year type seasons. And Alex Matthews averaged seven points a game last year, and we fully expect him to be in double figures this year. With Boomer and Cache we can move Alex from the point to his more natural position on the wing so he can provide some physical play and rebounding that we desperately need."
Those players, along with Jon Mark Scott, Alex Shehan and Tim Sanford, give Clark several experienced options to work with.
However, the sophomores, Clark said, will need to mature quickly for the Rockets to be successful.
"Cache, Boomer, Donovan and Nigel will compete heavily for varsity minutes right from the start," the coach said. "We expect them to vital parts of our team. We expect Nigel to lead us in rebounding Boomer's assist to turnover ratio to be positive, Cache to shoot a good percentage from the field and Donovan to average double figures for us. They're only sophomores, collectively about 15 years old, and they'll be competing against 18 to 19 year olds, so they're going to have rough spots here and there. But they're capable of handling anything that opponents will throw at them."
Clark said he is not set on a starting five and he likely will not be until later in the season.
"We won't determine a starting five (for Tuesday's season opener) until after practice Monday," he said. ""We're going to look at some different line-ups early in the season to get a feel for some of the combinations. I don't think we'll settle into a consistent starting five until later into the season. We've got a lot of parts, but we just have to see how they fit together."
The Rockets will face a tough schedule again this year. With early games against Bullitt East and Eastern just before the holiday tournaments, Clark said his team will quickly find out what they have.
January sees big region and district games with Anderson County, South Oldham and Gallatin County, and the month ends with a trip to Dunbar.
February will be the Rockets' biggest test. The team opens with a home game against Oldham, and then goes to Simon Kenton before hosting Spencer County and playing the final three games on the road at Elizabethtown, Madison Central and St. Xavier.
"Regardless of whatever postseason situations we get in, those final three games are going to have us prepared," Clark said.
While the team has a lot of inexperience, Clark said his team will be a contender this year.
"Our senior class, with its strength, allows us to be ready this Tuesday and for every game this year," Clark said. "But several of those sophomores are going to figure into the mix out there with the seniors. Our region is very tough, top to bottom. I think it's going to come down to five or six teams that are good enough to win it. I think we'll be an outstanding team by March. We're going to be in that mix with Oldham, Anderson, Gallatin and South Oldham.