Youth and inexperience held back the talented Calloway County basketball team last year, but this season they are primed and ready with a full year of varsity experience and a complete offseason under their belt.
There were no seniors on the team last year and at times the lack of veteran leadership showed, now, the Lakers will have multiple seniors and a team that has plenty of depth to boot.
“This is an exciting year for a team that was thrust into starting roles last year and forced to grow in front of us all,” Head coach Brad Cleaver said. “They did grow and improve and gain valuable experience that turned to confidence over the summer. Experience, hard work and confidence is a nice combination.”
Over the summer, the Lakers competed in a few team camps and they really shined. Cleaver said it stems from a few things, including innate confidence.
“We are bigger, stronger and faster, and much more confident,” Cleaver said.
If the Lakers are going to make some noise this year, there are three players that will constantly be in the spotlight, in Kade Mize, Cade Butler, and Chandler Steele. As Cleaver said, these three were thrust into starting roles last year and now with a full year of varsity play and an offseason together, they have really seemed to gel as a unit.
“Cade Butler has extended his range to the gym doors and fine-tuned his ball-handling to next level handles to accompany his good decision making and court vision. Kade Mize is a cat-like defender that can dictate the pace and flow of the game at both ends of the court,” Cleaver said. “Kade is tasked with getting us into the Laker flow of offense we desire to play and can score in bunches, he is a tough matchup for anyone. Chandler Steele is a double-double threat that will be a tough matchup on both ends of the floor. Chandler is a very smart basketball player that can dunk on you.”
One of the biggest strengths of this team was on display in their first scrimmage of the year. They shot 44% from beyond the arc and Cleaver thinks that can really impact the way they can attack offensively.
“We are able to stretch the floor with our ability to shoot the 3 with range and open the lane for penetrating pressure,’ Cleaver said.
As the season wound down last year, the Lakers hit a rough patch losing seven of the last eight games. They were lead in scoring by Steele with 13.6 points per game, Butler wasn’t far behind with 13.3 points per game, and Mize was also in double digits with 11.9 points per game. That trio will carry the load again this year, but the depth will allow for a few other players to play critical roles.
Two of those guys expected to play big roles are multi-sport athletes that had a pretty good year on the football field, and Cleaver said that aggressive mentality meshes perfectly with what he wants for his team.
“Ki Franklin and Montrell Rogers bring a tough and aggressive play from football that aligns with our strategy,” Cleaver said. “Every single person on our roster is important to our success this year.”
Other guys with great potential include Jarrett Darnell, Evan Garrison, and Will Duncan, and who knows, someone else could shine off the bench too. This team is loaded and ready to compete for a district and regional title in the toughest district in the state.
“District 4 will be one of the most exciting districts in the state,” Cleaver said but added he thinks his team can take it all. “ I really like the Lakers!”
They open their season with Ballard Memorial for the second time in a row and if the offense is anywhere near as explosive as they were in the scrimmage earlier this year, then teams are in trouble. This up-tempo change is going to really catch some teams by surprise and could propel the Lakers to that coveted Region 1 title.