FRANKLIN FURNACE — There’s a change of pace underway for the Green Bobcats.
With the graduation of two 1,000-point scorers — and a new-look team of bigger Bobcats — Green is going from a basketball bunch of offense to defense, from fast to slow, and from outside-in to inside-out.
It’s an entirely different feel for Green and sixth-year head coach Dirk Hollar, whose Bobcats went 13-10 last season, but were upset as the second-seeded squad in the Division IV sectional championship by upstart Whiteoak.
“There are a lot of question marks right now, but it basically comes down to whether we’re going to play defense or not. That will be the determining factor I think on how many wins and losses we have. If we sit down and defend and we get the ball out and get the ball inside and go inside-out, then we have a chance to be a good team,” said Hollar. “Last four years, we were outside-in, but now that we’re going inside-out, that will hopefully open up a lot more things.”
That sectional final defeat closed the careers of “four solid seniors” for Green — Tanner Kimbler, Tayte Carver, Caden Blizzard and Zach Huffman.
Kimbler and Carver crossed the 1,000-point plateaus for their careers, as Kimbler — who averaged 20 points per game — captured all-Southeast District Division IV second-team accolades as a senior.
Carver claimed Special Mention, and Blizzard and Huffman “did whatever you asked of them”.
In addition, Hollar said that 5-10 junior Ethan Huffman, a football standout, suffered two concussions this past season — and may not play much, if any, roundball this upcoming winter.
“We graduated four really good seniors and if Ethan Huffman can’t play, then that makes five really good players we lost from a year ago,” said the coach.
This season, Hollar has 20 Bobcats in the entire program and a dozen on varsity, although experience is lacking — at least early — with only 6-1 senior Gage Sampson having any true defined definite playing time.
Sampson — a first-team all-Southeast District honoree — averaged 19 points per game a season ago.
“Gage will be our go-to guy. It will be Gage and after that, we’re going to have to slow it down, pound the ball inside and work on pretty much playing defense,” said Hollar.
He is one of seven seniors for the Bobcats, which also includes big-men centers Mason Hensley at 6-8 and Caden Brammer at 6-4.
Levi Singleton, a 5-10 junior, saw spare minutes a year ago as well.
“Experience will be an issue starting out, considering Gage Sampson is the only one that started last year and played a lot last year. Mason (Hensley), Caden (Brammer) and Levi (Singleton) all played a little bit, but by that I mean one or two minutes a game if that as far as significant minutes,” said Hollar. “Gage is the only truly experienced varsity player coming back from last year.”
Coming back out from two years ago is 5-9 senior Trevor Darnell, and coming out for the first time and “finally healthy” is 5-10 senior Alec Smith.
Sampson’s brother, 6-2 freshman Levi Sampson, should figure into the regular rotation — along with 6-2 junior Dawson Damron, 6-1 junior Wiley Sanders and 6-1 senior Troy Otworth.
Hensley and Brammer will rotate, Hollar said, at center — as the Bobcats are big and must work to get the ball into the interior in order to score.
Smith, playing point guard, gets that half-court setup started up — but only after Green is able to crash the boards.
“We’re a big team. We go 6-8 (Hensley), 6-4 (Brammer), 6-2 (Damron) and 6-2 (Levi Sampson) and our point guard Alec Smith is 5-10,” Hollar said. “We definitely have to rebound as well as defend, because we’re not going to be able to outjump teams.”
And then, as Hollar explained, get back and guard.
“We’re going to have to pound the basketball inside and get back and really play defense. That’s the key to everything and what we’ve been stressing this preseason.”
And, against the likes of defending Southern Ohio Conference Division I champion New Boston and SOC I newcomer Ironton St. Joseph, defense will be necessary.
“New Boston is the defending champion and will be the team to beat again. Ironton St. Joe is going to be very tough with small guards and they like to shoot it and get up and down. Symmes Valley has the Leith brothers, who are very tough. After that, I think you can throw in anybody,” said Hollar.
Eastern, which moved up to the SOC II this season, play Green in the non-league — as the Bobcats also battle Manchester, Coal Grove and Greenup County (Ky.), and Fairview (Ky.) twice.
But Hollar was blunt in his expectations for his Bobcats.
”We have to play defense or we won’t beat anybody,” he said. “It’s that simple.”
Sure enough, a change of pace is underway at Green.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved