With the beginning of high school basketball season on Monday, here’s a quick look at some of the area’s top teams and players to watch during the 2015-16 campaign:
Who’s going to fill their shoes? Christ Presbyterian Academy has been one of the top teams in the state for the last few years, but mass departures from last year’s Class AA state tourney squad leave Coach Drew Maddux in a major reloading project.
While CPA graduated three of its starters from last season’s team, the biggest losses came with underclassmen who transferred. Two-time Mr. Basketball Braxton (Blackwell) Key, a 6-foot-7 Alabama signee, elected to play his senior season at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Standout eighth-grade point guard Tyger Campbell moved out of state during the offseason.
Returning with honors: Several Mr. Basketball and Miss Basketball finalists will be back on the court this season in the Midstate.
Among them are Blackman’s Crystal Dangerfield (Class AAA Miss Basketball winner), Van Buren County’s Lakelyn Bouldin (Class A Miss Basketball finalist), Brentwood Academy’s Sydni Harvey (DII-AA Miss Basketball finalist), Ensworth’s Jordyn Cambridge (DII-AA Miss Basketball finalist), FRA’s Kenny Cooper (DII-A Mr. Basketball finalist), Ensworth’s Jordan Bone (DII-AA Mr. Basketball finalist) and Brentwood Academy’s Darius Garland (DII-AA Mr. Basketball finalist).
Dangerfield, a 5-foot-5 Connecticut signee, claimed her second-straight Miss Basketball award last season, averaging 15.5 points, 5.7 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 steals for the two-time defending champion Lady Blaze. Bouldin averaged 23 points last year. Harvey scored 11 a contest while Cambridge averaged 16.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, four assists and three steals.
Just a sophomore, the 5-foot-11 Garland, averaged a team-leading 13 points a season ago and has already received scholarship offers from Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Virginia, Louisville, UCLA, Baylor, Memphis and Wake Forest. Cooper, a 6-foot-1 Lipscomb signee, posted a team-high 17.8 points per game while leading the Panthers to a Division II-A sub-state appearance. Bone, a 6-foot-1 Tennessee signee, averaged 16.2 points last season, leading the Tigers to a Division II-AA semifinal appearance.
BOYS TEAMS TO WATCH:
Brentwood Academy: The defending Division II-AA champions return plenty of talent from last year’s 28-2 campaign. Garland will be joined by state tourney MVP Jeremiah Oatsvall (11 ppg). Fellow two-sport standouts Gavin Shoenwald (6 ppg, 6 rpg) and Cam Johnson (6 ppg) were also key contributors for the Eagles last year.
Station Camp: The Bison came up one win shy of securing their first state tournament appearance, and coach Seth Massey’s squad brings back three key contributors from last year’s District 9-AAA and Region 5-AAA champions. Guard Keaton Dotson (6-foot-4) returns after averaging 10.7 points, and 6-foot-6 forward Yalen Reed posted 10.5 points while pulling down 6.7 rebounds per game.
Brentwood: The Bruins will have a new face on the sideline as Greg Shirley takes over for legendary coach Dennis King, who stepped down after last season. The defending District 11-AAA champion Bruins will also have several new faces in their starting lineup as Grant Teichmann, Jalen Lawson and Tanner Tapp graduated after last year’s 30-8 Class AAA runner-up season.
Pearl-Cohn: The graduation of last year’s leading scorer Jordan Sandifer leaves some big shoes to fill, but the reigning Region 5-AA champion Firebirds bring back four starters from last year’s 28-3 campaign, including senior point guard Anthony Ramsey (16 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg) and junior forward Michael Cawley (12 ppg, 9 rpg).
Creek Wood: The Red Hawks welcome back three starters from last season’s Class AA quarterfinalists, including 1,000-point scorers Ross Plunkett and Ross Cummings, along with senior Gabe Cummings, who averaged eight points and four assists. Sophomores Coulter Dotson (10 ppg) and Clay Ruf should round out the starting five for Creek Wood, which is coming off the first state tournament appearance in school history.
GIRLS TEAMS TO WATCH:
Christ Presbyterian Academy: The Lady Lions’ lone loss in 2014-15 came in the Class AA sectional to eventual state champion Martin Luther King. Sixth-year coach Becky LeGate has a good chance to take CPA even further this year as the Lady Lions return their top scorer (Kenedi Hambrick, 14.1 ppg), leading rebounder (Savannah LeGate, 8.8 rpg) and their leader in assists (Chelsea Burt, 3.4 apg).
Dickson County: The Lady Cougars finished 32-3 last season eventually falling to Bearden in the Class AAA quarterfinals, and return their top scorer in All-Midstate first-team selection Lea Lea Carter. Dickson County may have a different look this year, though, as Greg Tipps replaces long-time coach Eve Hamilton.
Franklin Road Academy: The Lady Panthers won 31 games on their way to a Division II-A championship game appearance last season where they lost to Knoxville Webb. FRA has a good chance of making another deep postseason run, returning its leading scorer Riley Casey (12 ppg) and senior point guard Catera Sawyers.
Brentwood Academy: Brentwood Academy took home the state title in Division II-AA last year behind a 29-1 record. Harvey will be joined by two returning double-digit scorers in Bria Dial (11.2 ppg) and Bre Jackson (10.2 ppg).
Blackman: Blackman lost two key players and its coach from last year’s Class AAA championship team as Alex Johnson and Meme Jackson have graduated and coach Chad Hibdon left for Truett-McConnell College. However, Dangerfield is back for her senior season, and she’ll be looking to help lead the Lady Blaze to a third straight state title behind new coach Jessica Jackson. Also back is 6-foot-3 forward Jazz Bond, a South Florida signee.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nick Hopkins, Sr., Fayetteville: The 5-foot-11 Belmont signee averaged a team-leading 21.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.1 steals last season for the Tigers.
Austin Douglas, Sr., Cheatham County: A Tennessean All-Midstate third-team selection a season ago, Douglas, a 6-foot-3 forward, averaged 20.3 points and 10.4 rebounds for the Region 5-AA semifinalist Cubs.
Anastasia Hayes, Jr., Riverdale: Speed and ball-handling ability make the 5-foot-7 Hayes one of the toughest players in the Midstate to guard.
Lea Lea Carter, Sr., Dickson County: The 5-foot-11 Vanderbilt signee averaged 15.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists, shooting 52 from the field while leading the Lady Cougars to a state quarterfinal appearance.
Kendall Spray, Sr., Wilson Central: The reigning District 9-AAA MVP buried a state-record 139 3-pointers a season ago, and the UT Martin signee averaged 21.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.
Shelby Gibson, Sr., Oakland: The 6-foot-1 senior Ole Miss signee averaged a team-leading 14.8 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Class AAA runner-up Lady Patriots.
Allison Cowie, Jr., Battle Ground Academy: Cowie, a 5-foot-10 junior averaged 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds, and the All-Midstate selection has averaged a double-double each year since the eighth grade.
Reach Michael Murphy at 615-259-8262 and on Twitter @Murph_TNsports. Reach Sam Brown at 615-259-8232 and on Twitter @SamBrownTN.