Johnson gone, up-tempo attack stays
In four exciting and highly successful years at Marshall County High School with current Vanderbilt freshman
Kedren Johnson, the Tigers posted 99 wins and 31 losses, including back-to-back undefeated district slates in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.
The Tigers went 54-2 in district play over the four-year period, won two Region 6-AA titles and made one appearance at the TSSAA State Tournament in Murfreesboro, making it all the way to the semifinals before losing to Bolivar in overtime 64-58 in the 2009-2010 season.
Different yet same
Johnson is off showing his wares to the rest of the country now and MCHS head Coach Jason Tigert misses Johnson dearly, but still believes his current squad can do some serious damage this season in the same up-tempo attack.
"We hate to lose such a great player," said Tigert. "But life goes on and so far we have kids that have really stepped up their roles with the team."
Asked if it changes the way he coaches, Tigert said, "Offensively we have similar concepts, we just don't revolve around Kedren making all the decisions about finding people or scoring himself."
Tigert added, "Sometimes balance can be much tougher for opposing teams to prepare for because in the past they prepared for one and other guys would step up and make plays and shots.
"Ultimately, they were thinking if they could stop Kedren, they could win a game and now there is not one person they could necessarily target. We have multiple kids now, not just the first five, we have several kids that come off the bench and can score and play defense."
Stepping it up
In the post this season for Tigert's Tigers, taking over for the departed Jordan Anderson is the athletic junior Cameron Bowers.
"Bowers has definitely stepped up his game," said Tigert. "He is a pretty good athlete, he is hard-nosed, and he finds ways to put the ball in the basket by attacking and driving. He loves the game of basketball and all of his hard work has earned him a starting spot."
Another junior, Kevin Peterson will be the go-to guy on offense with Johnson's absence.
Tigert said about Peterson, "Kevin has a wealth of experience under his belt, he has played in big games, and he has been a big part of our success in the past. Kevin just doesn't get it done in the scoring column, he gets it done defensively."
The sharpshooting senior Brock Spencer has also been around awhile and has shown he is a great outside threat and has stepped up his defensive prowess as well.
"Brock is another one like Peterson," said Tigert. "He is a good defender and can really shoot the long ball. He is attacking the basket better and his game has evolved."
Playmaking Sophomore Aaron Hobbs, who comes off the bench, has already displayed some grit and guts, most notably this season when he drained a game-winning three-pointer at Lawrence County.
"Hobbs has demonstrated the ability to be a real gamer," said Tigert. "He makes plays when the game is on the line and has done that his whole career. We think he will continue to improve and we think he is a real spark off the bench."
Junior Corbin Clack is also a great shooter and can handle the ball, who Tigert said about, "He is an offensive-minded player that loves the game of basketball."
The effervescent junior Barry Mayes is a main cog in the team's on-court success and as a team leader.
"Barry is the one who has always been one of our go-to defensive guys, but he is one who early in the year against Columbia Central made some huge shots," said Tigert. "He plays the game of basketball with a lot of passion and has a good time doing it. All these kids love it. When they are done with practicing here, they are talking basketball, they are watching basketball, and they are just a group of kids that love the game."
Look for freshman Chris Walker to be a real factor as the season progresses and he picks up the speed of the high school game.
"We expect big things out of Chris Walker and we think he will have a really good career here at
Marshall County," said Tigert."He is very talented, can handle the ball well, has great athleticism, and is improving every day defensively."
Other notable players, who will all see plenty of court time under Tigert's system, are senior Tim Hutton, junior Jesse Kilpatrick, sophomore Trent Wiles, and a pair of freshman in Kacey Pleas and Dusty Lickly.
The Tigers have already raised some eyebrows with their fast start this season and it has even surprised Tigert a little bit when he said, "In June we had 10 days where we competed, so we had a little preview then, but we really didn't get much practice in the pre-season because of the success of the football program. To manage a 5-1 start is quite encouraging and hopefully we will continue to improve every day at the end of the year, we can make a run."
"Everybody has different expectations," added Tigert. "We have always had high expectations and we feel we can be competitive with the bunch we have coming back."
The Tigers will be a fun team to watch, will be well coached, and will leave it all on the floor every night.
"To be 3-0 in close games without Kedren, early in the year, shows what kind of character this team already has," said Tigert. "We think we can be towards the top of our league and go out and get some wins in that region tournament and get back to sub-state. Everything we do here is built around having tournament success. Without any question, our focus is what we are doing come district and region tournament time."