PORTSMOUTH – Ahead of the 2019-20 basketball season, familiarity has been key for the Clay Panthers.
Even though the Panthers graduated seven players from their varsity roster a season ago (6-16, 4-8 SOC I) including first team all-SOC I selection Hunter Mathias, practicing and preparing for the season in second year head coach Garrick ‘Tiny’ Anderson’s system has already paid dividends for his team.
“Familiarity with our system has been huge,” Anderson said. “Last year coming in with a whole new system took a bit of time, the kids started to pick up on it towards the end of the season and continued it over the summer. We’ve changed some things up, but overall they are understanding it more and more. The leadership these kids have has been developed playing together in baseball and soccer for years. The same leaders in baseball and soccer are the ones that will lead during this basketball season.”
Returning pieces for the Panthers include all-SOC I second-team senior Reece Whitley, senior Gage Moore, junior Shaden Malone, and junior Clay Cottle.
“Gage (Moore) is tough in the open court and sees the floor very well,” Anderson said. “Reece Whitley is very athletic and us coaches are going to use him in different ways this season. We believe Reece can create some match-up problems and we have to take advantage of that this season. Clay (Cottle) became a starter halfway through the season and Shaden Malone started the entire season, so both of them gained valuable experience last year. We asked a lot out of those two as sophomores, but we believe it will pay off this season.”
The Panthers varsity roster also includes senior leaders Dakota Dodds and Caden Cline, juniors Evan Woods, Levi Ratcliff, and Jaden Jessee, and sophomores Gavin Cayton, Hayden Moore, and Mitchell King.
“We’ve been working to improve our defense, consistency and finishing,” Anderson said. “Last year we had some close games going into the fourth quarter, but missed free throws and turnovers prevented us from winning. We also must stay consistent, we have to know what team is going to show up each and every night.”
Non-league games versus Paint Valley, Northwest, Manchester, North Adams, Belpre, Valley, South Webster, and Huntington, as well as their usual SOC I league schedule make up the Panthers schedule for the 2019-20 season.
“I think our conference as a whole is going to be competitive,” Anderson said. “We’re really looking forward to the start of the season.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved