Corbin guard leads all-region squad
Basketball in the 13th Region has become a study in parity of late with five different champions over the past five years. Corbin made the trip to Rupp Arena earlier this month, ending an eight-year drought between championships for the Hounds.
Another competitive battle should develop next year with Knox Central, South Laurel and Corbin among those bringing back veteran teams. I picked Knox Central to emerge as champion, which would end a drought for the Panthers that stretches back to 1970.
The following is my look back at the best of the season just completed and what you can expect in 2018-2019. If anyone is keeping score, I’ve picked the 13th Region champ correctly the past two seasons.
G — Andrew Taylor, Corbin
G — Markelle Turner, Knox Central
G — Cory Johnson, Whitley County
G — J.J. Ramey, South Laurel
G — Brian Gray, North Laurel
G — Tanner Boggs, Lynn Camp
G — Chandler Stewart, Corbin
G — Ryan Anders, South Laurel
F — Nick Martin, Knox Central
F — Tanner Harris, Jackson County
G — Andrew Creech, Harlan County
G — Jaylen Adams, Knox Central
G — Chase Sanders, Corbin
G — Hunter Bowling, Jackson County
C — Albert Oster, North Laurel
G — Adam Sizemore, North Laurel
G — Matthew Cromer, South Laurel
G — Alex Pace, Harlan County
G — Dane Imel, Knox Central
C — Ryan Rogers, Clay County
J.J. Ramey, South Laurel
Jaylen Adams, Knox Central
Nick Martin, Knox Central
Alex Pace, Harlan County
Dane Imel, Knox Central
Matthew Cromer, South Laurel
Slaht Hunter, Williamsburg
Madison Taylor, Corbin
Caleb Rose, Williamsburg
Jacob Wilson, Harlan
Connor Robinson, Clay County
Conner Farmer, Clay County
Micah Anders, South Laurel
Tyler Cole, Harlan County
Andrew Caldwell, Bell County
2018-2019 rankings (players listed by their grade for the 2019 school year)
1. Knox Central — Semifinal losses the past two years to Corbin derailed the Panthers when some thought they had the best team in the region. Knox Central could finally break through in 2019 with a senior-dominated lineup led by guards Jaylen Adams (13.3 points per game last year) and Dane Imel (11.8, 2.8) and 6-5 forward Nick Martin (13.3, 7.5). Kevionte Turner (9.2, 6.3), a 6-1 junior forward, also returns. Senior guard Dalton Elliott (2.8) or junior guard Zach Patterson (4.8) will likely round out the lineup.
2. South Laurel — With one of the region’s top 1-2 guard combinations in senior J.J. Ramey (19.3, 5.6) and junior Matt Cromer (13.1, 4.2), the Cardinals are the pick by many to win the region. Filling in for the other three graduated starters is the major question mark at this point, but South has no shortage of candidates led by junior guards Alex Hostetler (4.0) and Brett Norvell (2.5) and sophomore Micah Anders.
3. Corbin — Losing star guards Andrew Taylor and Chandler Stewart will be a blow, but the Redhounds rarely have a shortage of talent and will remain a contender with guards Chase Sanders, Cameron Maguet and Brody Barton back for their senior seasons. Ethan Wine and Alex Bryley, both 6-3 sophomores, are possible starters inside, along with 6-4 senior Jacob Unthank.
4. Clay County — A rare losing season in Manchester won’t likely be repeated in 2019 with four starters returning, including talented sophomores Connor Robinson (14.3, 3.9) and Connor Farmer (9.2, 2.5). Junior guard Jacob Curry (12.4, 2.5) is back for his third season as a starter and junior Jakob Begley (4.7, 3.1) is back for his second. Evan Langdon (4.0, 3.2), a 6-4 junior, will likely replace Ryan Rogers at center.
5. North Laurel — Four starters and five of their top seven graduate, but no one will underestimate the Jaguars after watching them exceed expectations last season following the graduation of Peyton Broughton. Adam Sizemore (8.5) is back for his senior season at point guard, with 6-3 senior forward Landon Young (6.1, 3.6) and 6-3 junior guard Cole Kelly (3.2) moving into the lineup after filling key reserve roles last year. Aaron Oster (4.5, 2.8), a 6-4 sophomore, could replace his brother, Albert, at center.
6. Bell County — A disappointing finish marred what had been a good season until the final couple of weeks. The Bobcats will feature an experienced squad next year, led by 6-5 senior forward Tyler Partin (11.1, 6.5), junior guard Trey Brock (7.5, 3.7), senior guards Isaac Collett (5.0, 2.4), Sawyer Brock (13.4, 4.4) and Ryan Lambdin (9.6, 3.3) and 5-10 senior forward Dawson Atkins (3.2).
7. Harlan County — Extending their string of 52nd District titles to five won’t be easy with graduation hitting the Bears hard for a second straight year. Senior guard Alex Pace (14.6, 4.9) and 6-5 junior guard Treyce Spurlock (6.0, 2.6) return in a lineup that will also likely include senior guards Gabe Price (3.9, 3.1) and Patrick Bynum (2.1, 2.0). Sophomore guard Tyler Cole could also break into the lineup after leading the Bears to a runner-up finish in last year’s freshman regional. Guard Josh Turner and center Hunter Helton, both sophomores, could also be in the mix for spots in the rotation.
8. Harlan — Youth will no longer be an issue as Harlan brings back a senior-dominated squad featuring Kilian Ledford (13.0), Cade Barnes (8.0), Jared Hawkins (3.0) and Carter Barnes. Freshman guard Jordan Akal (8.0) and junior guard Jacob Wilson (10.0) are returning starters in the backcourt. Jon Eldridge (6.0) and Dakota Shepherd (3.0), both juniors, will share time in the post.
9. Middlesboro — The Jackets were one of the region’s most improved teams last year and could crack the top 10 with all five starters returning, led by junior point guard Jabari Kyle (12.4, 2.3) and senior wing Christian Hubbard (9.3, 3.5). Also back are 6-4 senior center Mykel Griffin (9.0, 4.8), senior wing Drake Thomas (13.2, 2.9) and junior guard T.J. Patterson (5.6 6.3). Andrew Padgett (2.0, 2.4) and Steven Poore (2.1, 2.0), both seniors, are back after playing key reserve roles last season.
10. Jackson County — After knocking off Clay County in last year’s 49th District Tournament, the Generals gained some respect and that should carry over into next season despite losing three starters to graduation. Senior McGuire Wilson (2.9, 2.5) returns at point guard and senior Hunter Bowling (12.4, 3.1) returns on a wing. Logan Rose (5.3, 2.4) will likely move into the lineup at forward.
Best of the rest
Williamsburg — Three starters graduate, but second-year coach Nick Napier can rebuild around juniors Slaht Hunter (15.6, 4.2) and Caleb Rose (13.5, 4.9), two of the region’s best sophomores in 2018. Hunter Brown (5.7, 4.5), a 6-2 senior, will likely move in at center after providing valuable minutes off the bench last season.
Lynn Camp — After throwing scares into Harlan County and North Laurel in the last two regional tournaments, the Wildcats and coach Dinky Phipps are growing accustomed to success and could make another run at the regional next season despite losing Tanner Boggs and Jacob Bundy to graduation. Max Burd (13.0, 2.5), a junior, returns at point guard with seniors Josh Overbay (7.8 3.1) and Scott Overbay (7.6, 2.6) back on the wings. Matt Disney (4.2, 2.8), a 6-2 junior, will likely fill one forward spot, with 5-11 senior Jacob Balew (4.8) moving in at guard.
Whitley County — Losing star guard Corey Johnson and 6-6 center Jarret Carr to graduation will make it tough for the Colonels to make a move in the always tough 50th District. Senior guard Hunter Hollingsworth (14.6., 4.4) could be among the region’s best next season in a backcourt that welcomes back seniors Tyler Lawson (4.6, 2.5) and Dakota Lawson (5.8, 2.9). Senior guard Devin Bowling (3.7) and junior guard Trent Downs could round out the lineup.
Barbourville — One season after losing six seniors, the TIgers will bring back a veteran squad once again led by 6-2 senior center Connor Bain (8.7, 6.7), senior point guard J.D. McVey (9.3, 2.2) and 6-0 senior forward Jacob Helton (9.5, 5.1), along with 6-3 junior wing Shawn Vaughn (6.8. 4.0).
Red Bird — Everyone returns for the improving Cardinals, who could finally make a move toward the top 10 after several years at the bottom of the region rankings. Junior point guard Austin Napier (17.0, 6.2) will be joined in the backcourt by senior Max Kitoko (12.3) and juniors Deagon Finley (7.6) or Dalton Finley (12.0, 2.5). Dylan Asher (10.2, 6.4), a 6-5 senior, and Andrew Hoskins (3.4, 3.2), a 6-2 junior, return in the post, along with 6-3 freshman David Collett (3.8, 2.9).
Oneida Baptist — Three starters and two key reserves are gone, but the Mounaineers can rebuild around junior guards Elijah Woods (17.4), Tyler Preston (6.3), Sochi Onuoha (16.3), Clay Hamby (6.0) and Trey Gritton.
Pineville — Graduation losses pushed the Lions to the bottom of the 51st District and the loss of guard Josh Lawson will make a quick turnaround difficult. Senior guard Ben Goodin (11.4, 3.8), junior guard Braxton Caldwell (5.4) and 6-3 junior center Landon Couch are returning starters. Senior forward Chris Saylor (2.9, 2.1), 6-3 junior forward Reed Baker (3.5, 2.9) and freshman guard Hayden Callebs (2.7) will also be in the mix for starting jobs.