NEWTOWN – Mingo Central begins its third season on the hardwood and for the first time they will have the same head coach.
Brad Napier, who was named to the position last October, right before practice started last year, will begin his second season with the Miners.
“We know a lot of the kids now and have had the chance to build a relationship with them,” said Napier, a former longtime Logan High School assistant coach under Mark Hatcher and Harts native. “For the most part they’ve worked hard in the off season in the weight room and on the court too.”
Napier said he has 10 or 11 players who are vying for playing time. With only a couple that started last season and a couple of others that saw some action, the Miners are somewhat inexperienced.
“They are all competing for playing time,” Napier said.
However, seniors Alex Lee and Julius Hatcher both return and should provide leadership and scoring in the 2013-14 season.
“Alex Lee is going to be a big part of our team this year,” Napier said.
Lee is a 6-4 leaper who can score in the low post and he should be one of the team’s top rebounders. Lee is a standout athlete who also started on the football team, baseball team and was in the state finals in the 100 and 200 meter track championships.
“We are going to lean on him for leadership,” Napier said. “He is one of our most experienced players. He is a big key for us. Chase Hatfield (5-10) and Julius Hatcher (5-10) are other returning guys that played a lot for us and both are good shooters. Both can play defense and we are also going to lean on them for senior leadership.”
“We have a lot of young guys,” Napier said. “We have some guys back that we expect big things from in the next couple of years – not only this year. Mallie May has probably improved as much as anybody in our program. He has put on 20-some pounds of muscle and looks like a totally different kid on the court. He has more confidence and has gotten better at everything.”
Napier said others are also stepping up.
“Stevie Hammond (5-7) is very smart and very solid. He is a gamer,” Napier said of the sophomore guard. You saw what he did as a freshman and he has improved a lot. We are expecting big things out of him as well. We have sophomore Dalton Hatfield. He is probably our best pure shooter. He can score in bunches and maybe our best scorer.”
The Miners will also look to 6-4 junior Adam Dillon.
“We have junior Adam Dillon who has been really dedicated in the weight room and has gotten a lot stronger,” Napier said. “He is a very good shooter, but he has developed a little bit of a post-up game as well.”
Another senior is 6-0 forward Spencer Wilson who could see some playing time as he continues to work and improve.
Sophomore guard Deonte Joplin, another starter on the football team, will see some action at guard. The 5-10 Joplin has speed and can also penetrate to the basket.
“He has improved by leaps and bounds from a year ago. He looks more confident on the court,” Napier said of Joplin.
Another sophomore Kenny Allen, a 6-0 forward who Napier describes as “physical,” should also see some playing time. He has a bright future and has a big, thick body,” Napier said.
Junior Rubben Kasonga, a 6-4 post player, is improving. Napier describes him as very athletic, but inexperienced.
“He has great leaping ability and is extremely long and athletic,” Napier said.
Junior twin brothers Kyle and Paul Hawks, along with sophomores Garrett Moore, Caleb Endicott, Austin Stepp, Michael Dotson and Micah Muncy round out the Miner’s roster. Napier said they are all working hard and competing for playing time in the future.
Mingo Central has a tough schedule with a full slate of Cardinal Conference games and also an away game with Bridgeport and a holiday trip to Orlando, Fla., to play in the Disney Classic.
The Miners will play local rival Belfry in the Hatfield-McCoy Shootout at the Williamson Fieldhouse on Saturday, January 18.
Napier said Scott High School, which went to the state tournament last season, only lost one senior off of their squad. Other conference teams that will be strong will be Poca, Chapmanville, Herbert Hoover and Sissonville. Tolsia lost seven of their first 10 from last year and Wayne is also on the CC schedule.
“We’ve harped on it a lot. We have told our guys we have a brutal schedule. I think we play as tough a schedule as anybody in our class,” Napier said. “We start out the season with Scott who is a top five team, Poca who is a top five team and returns all of their starters and Bridgeport who is a top three team,” Napier said. “Chapmanville is also a very good team that can beat anybody on any given night. Then we go to Florida and we’ll be the smallest school in our division down there. There are schools in our bracket that have over 2,000 kids. Our schedule is definitely challenging.”
Napier said he hopes by January some of his players will develop and get better. He had about four players who played football and did not participate in the fall basketball league. So they are still working out the kinks and getting into basketball shape.
Napier said on offense his team will not run as many set plays this year.
“We will have an open post offense and use a lot of dribble-drive,” he said. “We want to put more emphasis on our players making plays – rather than the coaches calling plays. It should be a little faster pace.”
As for rebounding, Napier said his team is small, but they will work on blocking out and try to rebound the best they can.
Look for the Miners to play faster on defense and to press a lot.
“We’re not very big, we are small and quick. So we are going to try to find ways to use that to our advantage,” Napier said. “We’ve been working on our press. It’s going to take a while for some of them to get the rust off and for us to come together as a team. We want to get better and be ready by the end of the season by tournament time. We’re young and we’ll make some mistakes. We may have some tough times. If we keep working and stay together we could be very dangerous at the end of the season.”