2. West Ridge
3. Daniel Boone
4. Science Hill
5. David Crockett
Defending Class 4A state champion Dobyns-Bennett is the unanimous pick of Big 5 Conference boys basketball coaches to win the league title again.
While the Indians lost state tournament MVP Jack Browder, Malachi Hale and others from last season’s team, they picked up a huge addition with transfer Dante Oliver, the son of ETSU coach Desmond Oliver.
The younger Oliver is a 6-foot-5 senior point guard and a 1,000-point scorer over his career. D-B coach Chris Poore likes Oliver’s hunger to win. It was a question that Poore posed to the whole team after winning it all last season.
“A lot of times you work so hard to get something, then you take a deep breath or a step back,” Poore said. “You see it from players individually where they work so hard to get in the starting lineup or to be the main guy, then they get there and don’t keep their foot on the pedal. That’s not the case with this team.”
An example is 5-10 senior guard Brady Stump, a player Poore never has to question about his effort. The same is true with his backcourt mate Jonavan Gillespie, who gives the Indians another gear in the transition game.
Eli Day, a 6-8 senior, adds a good post presence. He’s also provided leadership with younger players following him to the gym to practice their shooting. Charlie McHugh, a 6-3 junior, is another big guard.
Other contributors include: Dace Potts, described as a high IQ player who can shoot, Peyton Franklin, who’s a ball of energy, Dakari Dixon, a versatile defender, and Zayden Haynes. There is even an option of playing big with 6-7 post players Major Dawson and Connor Godsey.
“I’ve really grown to like this group, what we have as a collection,” Poore said. “Those three guards are obviously very talented and they can set the tone, but we need the depth, the other guys to win all the games we want to win and get where we want to go.”
The Wolves have the league’s top big man in 6-9 senior center Dawson Arnold.
Veteran coach John Dyer said the offense will run through Arnold, although the Wolves are capable to playing different styles. Point guard Avery Horne is just a sophomore, but a talented point guard.
They’re filled with good shooters led by 6-3 senior Wade Witcher. Will Harris, who won the conference’s 3-point shooting contest at media night, and Parker Leming can also light it up from the outside. They can also be a pair of solid rebounders on the inside.
Houston Sherfey is a hard-working player, who will also see quite a bit of playing time, along with another 6-3 player in Trey Frazier. Chase Gill is a backup point guard whom Dyer likes his toughness he brings.
The Trailblazers picked up a big addition with Science Hill transfer Jamar Livingston, a 6-4 senior guard. He can score at all three levels, according to Boone coach Chris Brown.
Recently, injuries to guards Luke Jenkins and Brayden Blankenship on the football field have cast some doubt on Boone’s fortunes on the basketball court. If they’re able to get back to 100 percent sometime during the season, it gives the Trailblazers a dynamic starting lineup.
Other players from the gridiron who should make a major impact include 6-6 senior Luke Scott, 6-3 junior Henry Hamlin and a pair of 5-11 juniors in Landon Kirkpatrick and Jackson Utsman.
Boone also picked up another transfer with Clay Rowland coming from Providence to fill the point-guard role.
Questions abound for the Hilltoppers with new head coach Jon Higgins trying to put the finishing touches on his roster while the Science Hill football team chases touchdowns.
As it stands at the moment, the Hilltoppers could go with five guards in their starting lineup. Brady Lawson, a 5-10 junior, would be at the point with Oliver Peterson, a 5-11 sophomore, at the two guard.
Mason Wood (5-10, Jr.), Luke Guimond, (5-9, Sr.) and Carter Skeen (5-10, Sr.) could round out a starting five. There are also options to go with Noah Ratliff, a 6-3 wing, and Davonte Trusty, a 6-2 forward.
“Ratliff will be the biggest guy on the floor many times, but that’s OK,” Higgins said. “It’s how hard, aggressive we need to be defensively.”
A change could be Science Hill more of a half-court defensive team instead of the full-court zone traps they’ve often employed in past seasons.
The Pioneers hope their youthful enthusiasm can help overcome a lack of experience with just one senior, Kolby Jones, on the roster.
Coach Cody Connell describes them as a young, but great group of guys who can get downhill and shoot it.
Drake Shingledecker and Colin Beason, a pair of juniors who starred at the junior-varsity level, are expected to be good shooters from the wing positions. Gavin Peace, Bradley Gouge and Jones are others who could knock down big shots.
Jacob Arnold (6-0, So.) is the starting point guard with Jake Fox (6-2, Jr.) and Reagan Cash (6-5, So.) providing some muscle inside.