In all his years of coaching, Henry County High School boys’ basketball head coach Mike Greer has never had all his players returning until this year.
The Patriots had no graduating seniors from last year’s 12-19 squad that went 3-13 in District 10-AAA play. The Patriots did post two district tournament wins, including a 62-58 victory over the tournament’s No. 1 seed Rossview before bowing out with a 69-36 loss to Mount Juliet in the Region 5-AAA Tournament.
“It is going to come down to two factors for this team,” Greer said in a preseason interview. “One is how the group of returning players fit together. We are going to have to see how they handle all the varied experiences they had last year and I think we went through about everything you can go through. We started the year with virtually no experience and kind of held our own through December. We had a terrible January, but then played pretty well at the end of February in the tournament including beating the number one seed.”
Greer says the other is how much improvement the team has made in playing together and how well they learned the lessons of what is needed to compete against the quality athletes that District 10-AAA has in the Clarksville area schools and at Springfield.
“I’ve been pleased in the offseason about how well this group has been playing together. They seem to know now what the deal is and they want to compete and they want to be good. We certainly are starting out at a better point than we were last year,” Greer said.
After having no seniors last season, the Patriots will have seven seniors to provide leadership this year. Heading that group is John Odoms who led the team in scoring last year with a 13.9 points per game average.
Greer said Odoms is good enough to lead the team in scoring every night but the district opponents probably aren’t going to allow that to happen.Seniors helping Odoms out will be sharpshooter Will Singleton, hustler Deon Young, ballhandler Ashton O’Daniel and tough man Donte Davis.
“We really weren’t a very good shooting team last year, so we have spent a lot of time working on our techniques with our shots and trying to become better shooters. The guys have hoisted tons of shots and they are showing a lot of improvement,” said Greer.
The one strong shooter technique-wise last year was Singleton who sank 61 3-point shots.
Greer says Young has probably made more improvement than any other player on the roster since joining the team. He is a player who will dive for loose balls and he can make perimeter shots while adding a presence near the goal.
Davis is the Patriots’ hardest worker in practice and during games. He works on every aspect and contributes both on offense and defense. O’Daniel adds ballhandling skills and can make an outside shot when needed.
The other two seniors are Ja’Quis Coats and Blake Yearry. Greer says this duo has shown a lot of improvement this preseason but they need to keep moving up their games or they could get overtaken in the rotation by younger players.
JUNIORS STEP UP
The team’s three juniors all saw considerable action last year and they add something at all the team’s positions. The ballhandler is Semaj King, who also shoots very well.
“Semaj King was coming off a year where he didn’t play at all last year because of a knee injury. Despite all that time off, I thought he played very well. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have a really breakout type season this year,” said Greer.
Jawon Odoms, John’s brother, gives the Patriots another big, athletic body under the goal. He is a hard-working, no-nonsense kind of player.
The other junior is forward Andrew Wimberley, who has a nice perimeter shot. Greer said he is one of the Patriots’ smartest players, who understands his role and works very hard to help the team be successful.
There are only two sophomore players but Greer likes both of them. Zay’Bion Phelps and Peyton Tomlin are two players who continue to show improvement and could fight their way into court time this year. Rounding out the Patriots’ roster are six freshmen. Jackson Hayes, Brice Donaldson and Cam’Ron Patton have been working all preseason to get ready for the season.
The trio of Zamariyon Kendall, Jayce Kendall and Kevin Bradley have missed the preseason along with Jawon Odoms and Davis because they are members of the Patriot football team.
Greer says the District 10-AAA race will look familiar.
“It is pretty much the same song and just a different verse. You can figure Clarksville High, Northeast, Kenwood and West Creek are going to be at the top,” said Greer.
He said all those schools return good cores and project to be the teams to beat. Rossview had more graduation losses but featured a strong junior varsity team last year and may just need to reload.
Springfield lost a really good point guard, although the Yellow Jackets will return the other parts of their lineup. Montgomery Central underwent a coaching change, so Greer isn’t sure what to expect from them.
“The best thing I like about our non-region schedule is that there are a lot of games that don’t require a lot of travel. It is tough to have to go on long road trips during the school week plus hopefully we can develop some rivalry games with some of the towns closer to us to make things more interesting for our fans,” said Greer.
Greer said Gamlin Gymnasium provides a true home-court advantage for the Patriots when it is packed. He knows the Clarksville teams really hate playing in a loud and full Gamlin Gymnasium.
“We held some fundraisers during the offseason and community really turned out to support us. We are very grateful for that and we hope they keep supporting us the same way during the season. We think with the added experience our guys gained last year and with the amount of playing time they have had together that it could be a really fun season to watch develop,” said Greer.