Monday , 18 June 2018

Boys Basketball Preview: MISD Teams Finding Size an Issue Heading Into New Districts

By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor

Basketball season gets under way for boys teams around McKinney this week. So today, TSB gives you exclusive previews for each of the three MISD schools, including a link to each of the three full schedules. Can MHS and North return to the postseason, and can Boyd finally break its playoff drought in a brand new district?

McKinney Boyd:

Before the season even officially tipped off on Monday night across the state, the Broncos were dealing with the worst enemy to a sports team: the injury bug.

Michael Grant and Alaron Hernandez are both likely out for the season with injuries they sustained over the summer. Grant fell on his wrist during an AAU tournament and had surgery recently to repair the break. He was expected to replace some of the production lost by Mike Darling, who graduated last year and was a key contributor for the Broncos. Meanwhile, Hernandez tore his ACL and will not return to the court this season.

“It is something we have never really dealt with here before,” said head coach Dean Christian. “We must have been lucky in years past, but now it has caught up to us.”

While the Broncos are hoping to keep everyone healthy over the next couple of months, Christian has seen senior Mikel Parish begin to come into the role as a bona fide leader of the team.

“We are getting a lot of leadership out of Mikel Parish,” said Christian. “ He has been a great leader as expected going into his third year as a starter. He has really led the program in a fine fashion with Faisal Mansour and Martez Butler. Those guys have really stepped up and led the charge this summer and preseason. I am really hoping they conclude their careers here in fine fashion.”

Boyd finished 19-12 overall last season and ended the year one game behind fourth-place Garland in District 10-5A at 6-8. Entering the seventh year as a program, the Broncos have not made the playoffs in any of the prior six seasons. And now in a revamped District 10-5A with Allen, the Plano schools, and crosstown rival McKinney, the Broncos will have their hands full if they want to crack the postseason barrier this year.

The Broncos were a combined 1-15 versus the Allen, Plano, Plano East, and Plano West when they were part of the same district from 2008-09. When asked what makes this district so difficult to face on a weekly basis, Christian said the difference in size is something that stands out the most.

“The size is the biggest difference. Six feet 8 to 6-10 guys in this district seems to be nothing to those programs. Several programs seem to have two or three guys that tall, where in the Garland district last year there was only one guy that tall. I think to the sheer number of kids Allen and the Plano schools have to pick from is so much different from the Garland district. They just didn’t have those numbers.”

The other concern for the Broncos is depth off the bench, especially compared to the number of kids that schools like Allen and Plano West have to choose from compared to Boyd. But instead of trying to go head-to-head against teams with distinct size advantage, Christian said he wants to become what Garland was to them last season.

“We are hoping to mimic what Garland was to us. We are hoping to be more aggressive and be able to extend defensively,” said Christian. “Everyone is going to have to execute the half-court game at some point, but we want to get as many high percentage shots early as we can. In the past we were trying to slow teams down, but I think it is advantageous to us to try and speed things up. We seem to have a little more athleticism compared to the district just because of their size.”

Boyd will play an equally difficult non-district schedule leading up to the start of District 10-5A play in January, with games against Flower Mound Marcus and Richardson Berkner, as well as participating in the Arlington Lamar and Grapevine Tournament. With a senior-laden team and entering a grind of a district campaign, Christian said he doesn’t want to schedule for wins, but schedule for games that provide a measuring stick for his squad.

“You just have to be honest with yourself and accept the assessment,” he said. “I don’t think it is in our best interest, especially with the number of seniors on the roster, to schedule for wins. We need to schedule to see where we stand and see how excellent we are, if we even are. There is always that time to schedule for a win, but when you have a strong senior group like we have, you need to challenge them to see where you are at.

“And I believe they are mature enough to handle the nit picking and the details after the games because they understand now how important they are. You can really get into the crevices now because we already set that foundation with this group. Anytime you can return three starters you just have to be able to challenge those guys.”

The Broncos are 1-0 after Monday night’s 41-39 victory over Grand Prairie at home. They will play again next Monday afternoon at Flower Mound. Tip off is set for 2 p.m.

Click here for the Broncos full schedule.

McKinney High:

After losing the team’s leading scorer last year in A.J. Moutry, you would think that the Lions would be scrambling to find another player to step into his shoes and be the leader on the team.

Fortunately for head coach Wes Watson, he has to look no further than senior point guard Red Shannon. After completing his football season last Friday night, Shannon had a short weekend to rest before putting on his basketball shoes and hitting the court for practice. Along with Connor Fuentes, Atoka Toregano, and Jontrell Rocquemore, these Lion football players are hoping to bring the basketball team so tips and secrets to surprise a brand new district like they did on the gridiron this past fall.

After going 20-12 overall in 2011, along with a second place finish in District 10-4A, the Lions were eliminated by South Oak Cliff 80-75 in the area round game at the American Airlines Center. But after losing some key pieces, including none bigger than Moutry, McKinney faces a new beast in District 10-5A will trying to find a second playmaking point scorer to go along with Shannon.

When asked how much different the 2012-13 Lions will be from the squad that took the court last year, Shannon said you can expect a team that will get in a track meet and be willing to go up-and-down the court the entire game.

“We are going to have to find another efficient scorer, but we now have athletic guys that can run up and down the court a little more, dribble-drive, and get to the basket,” said Shannon. “We also have guys who can create open shots on offense and force turnovers defensively.”

While Shannon will be the starting point guard for the Lions, senior Atoka Toregano will likely see some minutes at the point which would move Shannon to the shooting guard position, depending on the rotation on the court used by Watson.

But similar to some concerns with their crosstown rival Boyd, Shannon and the Lions understand that they don’t possess the size that some of their district counterparts do.

“We don’t have the size or depth as some of the other teams in district like Plano East or Allen, who are 6-6, 6-7 across the board, but we have guys who are 6-4 that can move around and cover ground,” said Shannon.

After playing a huge part in the football team finishing 5-5 and within one game of a playoff spot when expectations were low for the program, Shannon is hoping to be the same sparkplug this winter as the Lions try and shock the District 10-5A basketball scene as well.

When asked if he is ready to step into the leadership position on this team, Shannon said he is looking forward to getting his teammates involved and what effects that could have on the offense.

“I know that some defenses are going to key on me, so I am going to get my teammates involved early so that we can spread the floor and be effective on offense,” he said.

McKinney plays its first game this Friday night versus Rockwall at home. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Click here for the Lions full schedule.

McKinney North:

One look at the North roster tells you everything you need to know about how this squad is built to win games this season.

With 11 players on the roster, only two are labeled as post players in Eric Ford and Tanner Little, meaning that the remaining nine players are considered guards, according to head coach Darryll Craft. This is in large part because of the lack of size on the Bulldog team, with the tallest player measuring out at 6-3. This drastic change in size along his entire team has sparked a difference in defensive mentality heading into the season, according to Craft.

“Now that our tallest kid is 6-3, who is much more athletic, we are hoping to play a bit more of an up-tempo game,” said Craft. “Conditioning and learning all our new defensive stuff. All of this defensive stuff we have never done before, so we have had to put in our new defensive strategies, our presses, and our mentality with how we want to trap all in the offseason.”

But while the Bulldogs may lack size as a team they will make up for in experience, as seven of the 11 players have had varsity experience heading into the year, something that will play to the team’s advantage when the playoff stretch comes again in February.

The Bulldogs are looking to make it to the postseason for the fourth consecutive season after losing last season to Woodrow Wilson 54-40 in an area round game. North finished 22-13 overall last season and was fourth in District 10-4A with an 8-6 record.

And like Boyd and McKinney, North finds itself in a brand new district this season with very few familiar faces. When asked what his team can expect this season from District 13-4A, Craft and his staff appear to have a good grasp on the majority of the district.

“I know Lovejoy is going to be extremely tough,” he said. “I know they have nine guys who are returning as seniors this year from a team that probably was the best team in the state in 3A last year. Wylie and Wylie East are both going to be very good. Both have great coaches over there who have given us fits the last four years in our district, so those games are going to be battles. We have been in Sherman’s tournament the past several years, and Sherman has tremendous athletes and is well coached. They are going to be very athletic, can score and will pressure you defensively.

“Denison may have one of the best players in our district, and if you put him around some really athletic kids they are going to be tough. We played Greenville last year and they took us right down the wire. I don’t really know much about them or whom they are bringing back. “

Craft will get an important piece back to his team when junior Kody Wilson returns to the court for the first time since his freshman season. Wilson was injured last year after playing some minutes on varsity his freshman year. The Bulldogs will also welcome to the floor a Frisco Liberty transfer in Michael Caldwell, who played at the varsity level last year for the Redhawks.

The Bulldogs will prepare for a difficult district campaign by squaring off with two preseason top-25 teams in West Mesquite and Little Elm, to go along with tournaments in Grapevine and Wylie. Rather than looking at these games from purely the win/loss column, Craft said he wants “to build depth and give non-varsity experience guys some playing time, as well as try and win basketball games.”

After spending the past two seasons in the shadows of some of the names like Highland Park, Rockwall-Heath, and even crosstown rival McKinney, Craft and his team understand that they are no longer to hunters in this district, but rather the hunted.

“We finally put our program on the map,” said Craft. “We were in a very tough district the past two years with a small enrollment, and we made the playoffs those two years and three years in a row overall. But there is a difference in that the last couple of years we may have flown underneath the radar because of the Rockwall’s and the Highland Park’s. Now that is what we have become this year. We have the top enrollment and every one has put the bulls eye on us now, and how we handle that pressure and those expectations will be important to find out.”

The Bulldogs will open their season on Tuesday night at home versus Frisco Liberty. Tip off is set for 7:30 p.m.

Click here for the Bulldogs full schedule.

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