The Huskies, coached by Marcus Thomas, face an interesting year.
They are in Class 7A, Area 7 with Gadsden City, Grissom and Huntsville. So when they have a road game, it’ll really be a road game.
But for the most part, the regular-season schedule will be made up of Birmingham Metro area teams.
The Huskies open the season Thursday night at Pinson Valley and the Indians’ new coach, Cedric Lane. Their home opener will be Monday against Shades Valley.
Hewitt will host Clay-Chalkville on Friday, Dec. 2, and also take on Center Point. The Bryant Bank tournament will be Nov. 19-22.
Thomas will work with five seniors, six juniors, a couple of sophomores and a freshman. Among the top returnees are junior Damon Harper, senior forward Alex Julbert, guards Anthony Temple and Sam Frazier and senior forward Harrison Stanley. Junior guard T.J. Alexander will arrive as soon as football is over – although no one wants that too soon, not even his basketball coach. Jaylon Reese and Jordan Eaton and freshman Malachi Moore, also a football player, are backcourt leaders. The Huskies will need to find some size to complement Julbert, who is 6-foot-4, and Stanley, who is 6-5. Among the candidates are sophomores Andrew Easterling (6-6) and Sam Cork (6-4).
The area will be tough. Gadsden City, coached by Reginald Huff, came up a game short of the Final Four. Grissom was 22-8 last year and has a lot back but a new coach in Jaime Lee, who was at Decatur. They’ll be smaller but faster. Huntsville was 6-23 and has a new head coach in Mike Holt, who stepped up from the second chair. The Panthers do have size.
Coach Jeremy Monceaux has some seniors to build around, including point guard Jalen Jordan. He’s got a jersey for another senior just in case.
“No, probably not,” Monceaux said with a smile when asked if football star Nico Collins will be back on the hardwood this season. His No. 10 is waiting for him if he changes his mind.
The Cougars are getting closer to the goal of winning a regional after winning 23 games last year.
Monceaux said he believes now his Cougars understand they must play hard for the whole game. He said they probably lost more games in the final two minutes, due to turnovers or loose balls.
“We were one rebound, one stop away from beating a lot of teams that made it to Birmingham for the state semifinals,” Monceaux said.
Point guard Jalen Jordan worked this offseason on his perimeter shooting. Jordan has an offer from Lawson State.
Others Monceaux is counting on are seniors Anthony Holmes, Jonathan Billingsley, Colin Bryant and Keithan Parker.. He has eight juniors and a sophomore. Christian Copeland, Brandon Harper, Christian Bryant, Caleb Toney, Otis Black, Keith Hearon, Jovan Gale and Damon Moore are juniors while Eddie Smith is a promising 10th-grader who will likely start. Other starters project to be Jordan, Holmes, Bryant and Toney, but the Cougars will go deep into the bench.
The Cougars are in 6A, Area 12 with Pinson Valley, Center Point and Gardendale.
The big question Cedric Lane has had to answer since moving from Jackson-Olin to Pinson Valley is “Why?”
Lane won three state titles at Wenonah and then turned J-O’s program back around. And that’s part of the answer.
“I like to build programs, not just maintain them,” Lane said, who already started building something before the basketballs rolled out on the floor. He coached the PVHS cross country team to the Jeffco title – “My first,” Lane said.
He wasn’t lured by the cross country program, although he said being part of a complete athletics and academic tradition is important to him. He also has full support of Principal Michael Turner and football coach/AD Matt Glover. And full control of his basketball program.
If it’s building he likes, he can now take hammer and nails to the hoops program. He inherits a 3-27 team from 2015-16. Most of that team is gone.
He does have one major hammer in the toolbox. That’s freshman Colby Jones, a son of former UAB player Chad Jones.
“I think he’ll win Mr. Basketball before he graduates,” Lane, and he’s not kidding. Jones has that kind of ability. He’s a smooth player with shooting ability and basketball skills who Lane can build around. Lane also has Jerrell Willie and Hewitt-Trussville transfer Chris Lewis, a 6-4 guard-forward who’s picked up offers from Gadsden State and Lawson State. Orion Morris is among the football players who will join the team after the season. He’ll likely play point guard. Liallen Dailey is another who’ll join.
Expect the Indians to be uptempo and athletic.
Lane has put together a challenging schedule, including Mountain Brook, Westlake, Ga., and Pelham. They are in 6A, Area 12 with Clay, Gardendale and Center Point. They opened Tuesday with Jackson-Olin and host Hewitt-Trussville on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles made it to the region finals, losing 71-61 to Huffman.
The Eagles were just 17-17, but they play all comers in all classes.
Coach Rodney Chatman loses Darius Curry to the University of Mobile, and his sneakers will be tough to fill. He averaged 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks a game while picking up All-Area and All-Area MVP. Also gone are point guard Bryant Bernard and shooting guard Devin Russell, both to North American University, a start-up independent program in Houston.
Six-foot-two Caleb Crook is back for his senior season, but it will be a young team otherwise. But Chatman always has his teams prepared and seemingly always finds a way to instill intensity in his squads.
The Eagles are in 6A, Region 12 with Clay, Pinson and Gardendale. They opened the season with Ramsay on Tuesday, will host Huffman on Friday, then host Wenonah on Tuesday, Nov. 15.