2012-13 Boys Basketball Preview: Defending State Champion White Oak Primed to Protect Crown
Ron Boyett and his White Oak Roughnecks start the 2012-13 season where they finished last year: No. 1.
White Oak's veteran coach must replace leading scorer Caleb Carr and versatile forward Jerred Whisenhunt, but he welcomes back three starters from a 37-1 Class 2A state championship team. The Roughnecks appear ready to make another run with point guard Kris Anderson, shooting guard Skylar Sutton, and 6-foot-7 post Levi Yancy leading the charge.
Boyett welcomes the high expectations that come with the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches' No. 1 preseason ranking.
"We've been ranked high before so it is not new to our kids," Boyett said. "Expectations can either intimidate you or drive you. We aren't looking for the safety net of being the underdog."
Yancy, who had a triple-double in the Roughnecks' come-from-behind Region III championship victory against Kountze, gives White Oak a force inside on both ends. The lanky shot-blocker has received interest from multiple Division I programs. Sutton is an established shooter, and Anderson is White Oak's engine. The 5-foot-7 point guard averaged more than 11 points and five assists per game last year, while also setting the defensive tone for his team.
"I don't think I've ever coached a kid that looks forward to game day more than Kris and the bigger the game, the better he is going to play," Boyett said. "All our kids have a lot of confidence in him and he's a great teammate. No doubt, he makes our team go."
Thanks to UIL realignment in February, teams that have played in the last two Class 2A state championship games will fight for the District 17-2A title when No. 1 White Oak meets No. 12 Tatum. The Eagles, who lost 55-54 to Idalou in the 2011 state championship, expect to have another good year under coach Brett Carr, who led Tatum to a 26-11 season that ended in the third round in a nine-point loss to Edgewood.
Key players such as Brandon Viesca and Nate Pickett graduated, but Carr can depend on sharpshooter Robbie Rockwell and athletic Javolick Garrett to lead this year's Tatum team. Rockwell led Tatum in scoring and hit 40 percent of his three-point attempts last season.
"Mostly it's about working hard and wanting it more than the other team," Rockwell said of Tatum's approach entering the season. "Really going to have to play hard and play as a team, be really unselfish."
The aforementioned Edgewood team starts the season one spot ahead of Tatum in the TABC 2A poll at No. 11. Hooks (17th) and Crockett (22nd), which is a year removed from the Region III championship game, are also ranked in the TABC preseason 2A poll.
In Class 3A, Pleasant Grove and Spring Hill enter the season ranked 18th and 23rd, respectively. The Panthers had a breakout year last season under White Oak graduate and first-year coach Hunter Taylor, who led them to a 26-7 finish.
Class A Division I is where you'll find more East Texas teams in the TABC preseason poll than anywhere else.
Cayuga starts the season No. 2 and hoping to erase memories of one-point regional tournament losses to Tenaha each of the last two years. The last time that didn't happen, the Wildcats won a state championship thanks to freshman Preston Anderson's game-winning three-pointer.
Now a 6-foot-7 senior point guard, Anderson brings his 25 points per game as a junior into his final season at Cayuga, which also boasts 6-foot-7 post Deon Shofner. With that kind of personnel available to coach Greg Jenkins, Cayuga's hopes are high for a return to the state tournament.
"(Other teams) will have a 5-10 post and we have two 6-7 posts and they just can't match up to it," Preston Anderson said of the Wildcats' height. "It gives us a big advantage rebounding and pressing and stuff like that."
Another talented point guard, Patrick Walker, has Grapeland ranked fifth in the TABC's 1A D-I preseason poll. Walker averaged 21 points per game as a sophomore and will be one of the best playmakers in East Texas in 2012-13.
LaPoynor (8th), San Augustine (10th), Martinsville (15th), Tenaha (17th), and Broaddus (18th) are also TABC preseason top 20 teams in 1A D-I. Martinsville and Tenaha should make for a good District 22-A D-I battle, while San Augustine and Broaddus are expected to battle for the District 23-A D-I crown.
The glut of ranked East Texas squads continues in 1A Division II, which features No. 2 Douglass, No. 6 Laneville, No. 11 Oakwood, and No. 20 Yantis. Douglass, Laneville, and Oakwood make District 25-A D-II one of the strongest small school basketball districts in the state.
Laneville welcomes new coach Hosea Lee, who has won a 3A state championship at Gainesville, coached at Longview, and led Roxton to the state tournament a year ago.
Bullard Brook Hill is East Texas' lone ranked private school, coming in at No. 15 in the TABC preseason private small school poll.
While East Texas may not have any ranked teams in Classes 5A and 4A, there will be plenty of players who will make the season a fun one. Lufkin's Dominique Shaw averaged almost 19 points and eight boards a year ago, and Whitehouse's Patrick Mahomes will try to get the Wildcats farther than last season's trip to the postseason's second round.
Cedeno Clark takes over in his first full season as John Tyler's head coach, and he'll have Tyus Bowser to lean on. Bowser averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds a year ago. And just like the District 16-4A football race has come down to Whitehouse vs. John Tyler, the chase for the basketball title could see the same situation. But don't tell that to Jacksonville, which returns 9 of 13 varsity lettermen from a 25-win squad a year ago.
TEAMS TO WATCH
Head Coach: Brent Kelley
2011-12 Record: 25-9 (4A Region II area finalist; lost 53-42 to Lancaster)
- Dadrian Franklin, Sr., Guard (12.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
- Londedric Taylor, Sr., Guard (6.9 ppg, 2.4 spg)
- Kedarrius Buckingham, Sr., Forward (6.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 25 charges drawn)
2012-13 Outlook: Nine of 13 varsity letterman are back for coach Brent Kelley, who led the Tribe to a 25-win season a year ago. Dadrian Franklin may be the best of a strong senior class that hopes to get Jacksonville beyond the second round of the playoffs. Six returning players averaged at least 5.1 points per game. The District 16-4A race will be a good one with Jacksonville battling John Tyler and Whitehouse.
JOHN TYLER LIONS
Head Coach: Cedeno Clark
2011-12 Record: 24-8 (4A Region II area finalist; lost 57-54 to Ennis)
- Tyus Bowser, Sr., Forward (16.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
- Fred Ross, Sr., Forward (14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
- Greg Ward, Sr., Guard (9.2 ppg, 4.0 apg)
2012-13 Outlook: First-year coach Cedeno Clark welcomes back five players who averaged at least 6.2 points per game last season, including versatile playmaker Tyus Bowser, who averaged a double-double. With Bowser, Oklahoma State football commit Fred Ross, and Houston football commit Greg Ward, the Lions will be one of the most athletic teams in East Texas.
Head Coach: Ryan Tomlin
2011-12 Record: 20-11 (4A Region II area finalist; lost 66-44 to West Mesquite)
- Patrick Mahomes, Jr., Guard/Forward
- Jaylon Dews, Jr., Guard
- Jake Parker, Jr., Guard
2012-13 Outlook: A young Whitehouse team won 20 games a year ago, and key pieces from that roster are back to help coach Ryan Tomlin lead the Wildcats to an even better year in 2012-13. Patrick Mahomes scored 47 points in Whitehouse's two playoff games and is back as the team's top player and will help the Cats combat the athleticism from district mates John Tyler and Jacksonville.
SPRING HILL PANTHERS
Head Coach: Hunter Taylor
2011-12 Record: 26-7 (3A Region II quarterfinalist; lost 61-53 to Lindale)
- Clay Lattier, Sr., Guard/Forward (9.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
- Kendon Womack, Sr., Guard (7.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
- Ben Brundrett, Sr., Post (4.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
2012-13 Outlook: Replacing leading scorer Brandon Robbins won't be easy, but second-year coach Hunter Taylor has several familiar faces back to help him shoot for another 20-plus-win season. Clay Lattier is the top returning scorer after coming close to averaging double figures a year ago. Don't be surprised if Ben Brundrett's inside production increases with another offseason under his belt.
WHITE OAK ROUGHNECKS
Head Coach: Ron Boyett
2011-12 Record: 37-1 (2A state champion)
- Kris Anderson, Sr., Guard (11.5 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.7 spg)
- Levi Yancy, Sr., Forward/Center (14.5 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
- Skylar Sutton, Sr., Guard
2012-13 Outlook: White Oak appears ready to defend its Class 2A state championship, which the Roughnecks secured after staying unbeaten beyond the first week of December last season. Levi Yancy is a Division I-caliber player. The backcourt duo of Skylar Sutton and Kris Anderson is among 2A's best. Forward Hayden Nichols and guard Josh Benson are two players to keep an eye on who could emerge to be big contributors for the Necks.
Head Coach: Greg Jenkins
2011-12 Record: 34-5 (1A Division I Region III semifinalist; lost 75-74 to Tenaha)
- Preston Anderson, Sr., Guard (25.0 ppg)
- Deon Shofner, Sr., Post
2012-13 Outlook: Preston Anderson hit the game-winning trey in Cayuga's 2009 state championship victory as a freshman, and three years later, he's hoping to get the Wildcats back to that spot. Back-to-back one-point losses to Tenaha in the last two regional tournaments have Anderson and Deon Shofner, who matches Anderson's 6-foot-7 frame, hungry for another trip to Austin. With their size and skill, that's a definite possibility for the Wildcats.
Head Coach: Owen Clifton
2011-12 Record: 27-10 (1A Division I Region III finalist; lost 57-56 to Clarksville)
- Patrick Walker, Jr., Guard (21.0 ppg)
- Demetri Walker, Jr., Guard (7.5 ppg)
- Quadarrius Whitt, Sr., Guard (5.6 ppg)
2012-13 Outlook: Grapeland fell a bucket shy of going to the state tournament last season, losing to eventual champion Clarksville in the regional final. With Patrick Walker back to lead the charge, first-year coach Owen Clifton has the personnel to get the Sandies back to the regional tournament, and perhaps to the Erwin Center in Austin.
Head Coach: Dean Nuckolls
2011-12 Record: 28-9 (1A Division I Region III quarterfinalist; lost 82-57 to )
- Deon Johnson, Sr., Guard (10 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.5 spg)
- Mason Motal, Jr., Forward (12 ppg, 8 rpg)
- Ashton Abendroth, Sr., Guard (12 ppg)
2012-13 Outlook: The eventual state champion Clarksville Blue Tigers ended LaPoynor's 2011-12 season, but seventh-year coach Dean Nuckolls returns his entire starting five and his sixth man to give LaPoynor as many proven veterans as just about anyone in East Texas. Deon Johnson plays much larger than his 5-foot-4 frame. Mason Motal, Ashton Abendroth, and Octavious Crear averaged a combined 35 points per game last season. Logan McClelland averaged six points and returns as the Flyers' defensive stopper.
Head Coach: Mark Leuschner
2011-12 Record: 30-4 (1A Division II Region III semifinalist; lost 50-45 to Dodd City)
- Reed Westbrook, Sr.
- Bryce Westbrook, Jr.
- Jake Raines
2012-13 Outlook: Veteran coach Mark Leuschner returns three starters from a 30-win team that reached the regional tournament. Two of those three starters are Reed Westbrook and Bryce Westbrook, the Indians' top two scorers a year ago. That should help the Tribe as it competes in a district with three teams ranked in the state's preseason top 11 (No. 2 Douglass, No. 6 Laneville, No. 11 Oakwood).
Head Coach: Hosea Lee
2011-12 Record: 25-7 (1A Division II Region III semifinalist, lost 68-63 to Roxton)
- Donta Harris, Jr., Guard
- Ty Johnson, Soph., Forward
- Anthony Roberts, Jr., Guard
2012-13 Outlook: Roxton has eliminated Laneville at the regional tournament two years in a row, but the Yellowjackets will have Roxton's head coach from the past two seasons leading them this season. Former Roxton and Longview coach Hosea Lee takes over with a 273-146 career record that includes a state championship with Gainesville. If the Jackets can overcome their youth -- one senior, eight non-seniors -- Lee and company could be playing well into 2013.
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