WEBSTER COUNTY, KY - The "buzz" you hear coming from Dixon is the excitement building in Trojan gym in anticipation of the 2010-11 basketball season for the WCHS Trojans.
After posting 16 wins last year, Webster County has its sights set on a 20-win season and chance to 'make some waves' in the Second Region this season. WCHS features six seniors and returns four starters from last year's unit.
Big, quick, fast and talented ... all characteristic of this year's squad and that's the reason for so much excitement.
"We definitely have a lot of experience returning and our depth should really be a strong point for us this year," noted WCHS head coach Bev Hart. "That's also creating some competition in practice sessions which is extremely beneficial. We feel like we're in position to be very competitive with anybody we play, it’s just a matter of executing and make plays in close games."
Webster is looking to use its size and depth to create an up-tempo game. Leading that charge will be senior Trey Tapp, a 3-year starter at the guard position.
"We're trying to get him to be a lot more aggressive, get to the basket and create his own shots. He shoots the ball really well and we're expecting big things from him this year," Hart continued. "His decision making will be the key for us to be able to play up-tempo ... when to continue to the basket, when to kick it (ball) out ... those types of things."
Sharp-shooting junior Jacob Scott will get his looks at the basket from the wing. High hopes ride on his pin-point shooting ability after another solid performance last season.
"I think he's as good a shooter as you'll find around here. He's worked extremely hard on his game the past two years and we look for him to really create some problems for teams this year. He has the ability to knock-down numerous long-range 3's which can break a game open," he added.
Filling the lane for Webster are three "bigs" that are fighting each and every day for those two starting roles. Tyler Harting, a 6-foot-6 senior, earned a starting role at times last year with his soft shooting touch around the hoop and his point-guard mentality of finding open teammates with a keen passing game.
Hunter Little, a 6-foot-4 senior, became the 'enforcer' last season on the defensive end for the Trojans. His gritty style of play led WC in defense and rebounding and those two areas will again be keys for Webster County victories. Taylor Turner is another force in the middle and he earned several starts last year at forward with an overall solid game, displaying power and finesse in the paint.
"They each have some different strengths and I feel confident in all three of them. Tyler starter some last year and he's probably the best pre-season so far.
"Hunter is just a great athlete, very strong and can really leap. He brings a power game inside, something that we definitely need to compete against the best teams in this region," Hart continued. "Taylor is a strong kid as well and he's had a very nice pre- season. All three of these guys do a really good job for us inside. They all give us different things on the floor and they seem to complement each other well. They'll be fighting each day to earn one of those two starting roles and we certainly want to make that a positive thing."
Webster also returns it's point guard in Clay Putman. The talented junior claimed the starting role last season, directing the Trojan offense as a sophomore. He's just returned to the hardwood this season after competing with the WCHS football team so he's a step behind in 'basketball condition' according to Hart, but that will return quickly.
"He did a great job for us last year on the point, despite it being his first year at the varsity level. We expect much more maturity and much better decision-making from him this year which is crucial at that position," Hart continued.
Waiting in the wings for their opportunity to contribute to a winning Trojan cause is a nice slate of capable reserves. Blake Major, another member of the talented junior class, has been a nice surprise for the WCHS coaching staff with his play over the summer and pre- season. Derrick Douglas, a very athletic senior is another football player just joining the squad. He displayed a strong game at times last season and Hart is looking for his strength and athleticism to be a key on the defensive end as well as rebounding.
"Blake has been very consistent for us the past couple of weeks and that will certainly earn him some playing time. Derrick is very strong, very athletic and he'll certainly be a huge asset for us coming off the bench. There's no doubt he has the ability to have some big games and that can be a real shot in the arm for us on some nights," the WCHS coach explained. Kenny Hayes has also impressed the WC coaches with his gutsy play over the summer. A 5-foot-8 senior, Hayes is determined to make his final season in Trojan gym one to remember.
"I think he's really had a good pre-season. He shoots the ball really well and if we can hold to our plans and play an up-tempo game, that will create quite a bit of playing time for Kenny," said Hart.
Webster's final senior, Zach Martin could also be a very welcomed addition to the runnin' Trojans. After a fine season on the football field and a very productive 2009 at the junior varsity level for the basketball Trojans, Martin is poised to bring additional depth to a "loaded" WCHS squad.
"These are the top 10 kids and they are really competing and working hard in practice for those five starting spots. I told the kids just the other day that I'll be shocked that whoever starts one game will be the starters for the next," Hart emphasized. "We have a lot of guys that are pretty equal and when one guy is not having a good night, we've got a couple of people on the bench that can step right in and pick up the slack.
"One night we might need starters with "this" set of skills and then the next night, different players with different skills. We just have to be cautious and work hard to keep the attitude right and keep people happy. Sometimes you can have too much depth, everybody wants to play and sometimes that can turn into a negative. But I feel really good about the type of kids we have and I think they all are on the same page and all want the same thing. It's just something we'll have to keep an eye on as a coaching staff," explained Hart.
Right now the biggest job for WC coaches is developing the "competitive fire'" in this group of Trojans, that desire to play at their peak each and every night. It's a goal of every coaching staff, but certainly the focus of this year's squad considering the tools on hand to be one of the top teams in Region 2 if that fire can be ignited.
"I thought at times this summer we were just kind of "there", maybe a little bit bored and not playing at our full capacity. That was really a concern. But so far this preseason I've been really pleased with their work ethic. This group has shown quite a bit of intensity in practice and that's very consistent as well. We've had very few 'bad days' in practice and that's very encouraging."
Hart and his veteran coaching staff continue to push the squad to new heights, hoping to battle the 'big dogs' of the region including district rivals Union and Henderson counties as well as Christian County, a pre-season favorite to win a state title.
"It's very simple really," Hart said of the Trojans taking that step to the next level of play. "The physical play and the passion that teams like Christian and Henderson bring, we just haven't matched that in previous seasons. That's the key for this team to make that jump to that level of play. That type of play has always set us back on our heels and that's what we have to overcome.
"We have to become more physical and not be intimidated by these teams. Defense, rebounding, taking charges ... all the dirty work it takes to play at that level and that's what separate the top teams from the rest of us. If we want to get to that level, then we have to make great strides in those areas. I've seen positive steps in that direction so far, but until you start playing other varsity teams with that type of intensity, then it's hard to know how far you've progressed," he explained.
So does that brash, playground mentality exist for this year's WCHS squad?
"Are we going to be mean enough for 32 minutes to compete and defeat those types of teams, that's still the question," Hart grinned. "I've seen the right things and the keys to that type of passion so far against ourselves and I truly think we're on the right path right now."
That being said, Hart is cautiously optimistic about taking that leap into the top echelon of teams in western Kentucky and possibly 'rattling some cages' come tournament time.
"If we can pick up our game on the defensive end and hit the boards with the size we have, then I feel pretty good about this bunch of kids. The attitude of 'I'm not gonna let us lose', that's what we're looking for right now. Are we hungry enough right now, do we want it enough to take care of the 'dirty work', those are questions that are still to be answered. But again, I see signs of us being on the right track and I hope this group will not let that opportunity slip away without a fight," Hart concluded.
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