OXFORD – Benton Central boys basketball coach Kyle Marlatt has a lot of holes to fill this season.
The Bison lost seven seniors off last year’s 11-15 team that reached the sectional championship.
“We really lack experience this year,” said Marlatt, who is in his fourth year. “We don’t know who will step up yet. We have a lot of potential, but a lot of those kids have yet to be tested with varsity minutes.”
Austin Dixon and Sam Smith are the only returning players with a lot of varsity experience. Smith, a 5-foot-11 senior, will be the point guard this year and Dixon, a 5-11 senior, will also be at guard.
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“Sam will provide us with strong leadership,” Marlatt said. “He has enough fire to heat a village.”
Scoring could be an issue for the Bison. Smith averaged 5.2 points and Dixon 7.7 last year.
“Finding points could be a problem,” Marlatt said. “But, anybody could step up and score 20 for us in a game. Hopefully, we will be tenacious on defense and be a good rebounding team.
“We will be inexperienced on defense so we will try to keep things simple. We will play a lot of man but hopefully by the end of the season, we will be able to mix it up on defense.”
Marlatt is looking at three newcomers to help fill gaps for the Bison. Mason Gick, a 6-8 junior, is someone Marlatt is particularly high on.
“I am really excited to see Mason play,” he said. “He grew four inches over the summer and is looking really good.”
Senior Cole Charlesworth and junior Johnny Lanie will also see playing time this season.
“We have yet to win a game, but the kids are excited about the season,” Marlatt said. “We just need to develop one day at a time and make daily strides that then turn into weekly strides. The biggest thing we will have to do is not let them get discouraged.
“We had a great junior varsity team last year, but they don’t have that varsity experience. They are still trying to get used to the speed and physicality of playing varsity.”
The Bison open play in the J&C Hoops Classic against Twin Lakes, the team that beat them 65-41 in the sectional championship game last year.
“We know Twin Lakes like the back of our hand,” Marlatt said. “We will have to handle their pressure and handle the ball. We will not give up against them.”
BENTON CENTRAL BISON
Coach: Kyle Marlatt (27-43 in 4th year)
2014-15 results: 11-15 ( 1-5 Hoosier Conference), lost to Twin Lakes 65-41 in sectional championship.
Best J&C Hoops Classic finish: First (2003)
Key returnees: Austin Dixon, sr.; Sam Smith, sr.
Others to watch: Cole Charlesworth, sr.; Mason Gick, jr.; Johnny Lanie, jr.