Wednesday, October 28, 2015

East Central Basketball Warriors Have Ingredients for Successful Season

With starters at three positions and a lot of points returning, third-year East Central Community College men’s basketball coach Robert Thompson believes his Warriors will be in the conversation for a state championship during the 2015-16 season.

The Warriors, who finished 14-12 last season and earned trips to both the state and region tournaments, open the season at home Nov. 2 against Coahoma. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. in Brackeen-Wood Gymnasium on the Decatur campus.

Returning full-time starters for the Warriors for 2015-16 include 6-6 guard Prince McDaniel out of Pascagoula High School, 13 points per game, and 6-3 guard Ravion Henry, a product of Leake Central High School, 12 points per game.

Inside, the Warriors return 6-9 center Randy Phillips and 6-8 forward Derrick Dandridge. Phillips, a product of Lanier High School in Jackson, started 14 games and averaged 4.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Dandridge, out of White Station High School in Memphis, started 13 games, averaging 6.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Also returning is 6-4 guard Isaiah Traylor out of Tupelo High School, who averaged 12 points per game while logging significant time on the court, and 5-11 point guard Keion Peoples out of Ridgeway High School in Memphis.

“We have players returning who scored a lot of points last season
and who we believe can help us be successful this season,” said Thompson. “We also brought in some new guys who will help us a great deal.

“Isaiah gave us 12 points a game last year, and Derrick got a significant number of minutes on the court. Randy Phillips is a presence inside and a strong rebounder and defender and he’s only getting better. Keion should replace Ramone Tate at point guard and has a chance to be as good as any player at his position in the state.”

One new player who Thompson is expecting to contribute heavily is 6-3 freshman guard Joel Baskin out of Meridian High School. “Joel is really practicing well and will help us a lot,” said Thompson.

Thompson also said 6-5 freshman forward Tonzell Handy, a product of Lanier High School in Jackson, also should see significant playing time. “He has played really well in our scrimmages and is one of our hardest workers,” Thompson said. “He has been relentless on the boards.”

Thompson said that freshman Shaquille Benson, a 6-10 center from Hahnville High School in Boutte, La., and 5-8 point guard Jaylon Bardley from New Hope High School are both getting better, while learning the system and adjusting to the speed of the game at the college level.

Gone from this year’s squad are leading scorer and rebounder
Quinton Campbell, who was named to the First-Team All-State and All-Region teams. Campbell, who signed with the University of Southern Mississippi, averaged 14 points and nine rebounds a game. Also gone is starting guard Ramone Tate.

Thompson said that developing depth off the bench will be the key to success for the Warriors this season.

“Our top six or seven guys are going to be good,” said Thompson. “Others are going to have to step up and give us quality minutes. But overall, we have the ingredients to be a very good basketball team. They are playing together, share the same goal to be successful, and the chemistry is good.

“We believe we have a shot at our goals to win the division and win the state if we bring our best game each night. We will definitely be in the conversation about who is the best team in the state.”

The Warriors’ schedule features 23 regular season games, all against Region 23 opponents, and 11 home games.

“It gives us a chance to see how we stack up against region opponents before the Region 23 tournament in March,” noted Thompson.

The men’s game will speed up some this year with a new National Junior College Athletic Association rule that moves the shot clock from 35 seconds to 30 seconds. With the shorter shot clock, the five-second closely guarded rule has been eliminated.