By Anthony Sizemore, Student Sports Reporter
The Alice Lloyd Eagles are coming off a season where they finished in the middle of the pack in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletics Conference but upset Brescia in the first round of the KIAC tourney before losing in the semifinals to eventual conference tournament champions, Cincinnati Christian.
When asked about the expectations of this upcoming season, Eagles head coach J.R. Hammond made these remarks.
“It should be the team’s goal to try to make it to the (conference) championship game. We’ll see what happens later on down the road. The guys that played last year that are returning now have a taste of what it was like to play in the next round of the tournament (last season). Hopefully, they can keep the desire and momentum to get back and push the new guys and the younger players on the team.”
Despite losing Isaac Wilson, who led the team in assists and the team’s leading scorer and best defender in Stuart Stamper, Hammond claims that this is the most talent he’s ever had “from top to bottom” on the roster during his Alice Lloyd tenure.
“In the years I have been here, I do think this is the most talent we’ve had from top to bottom,” junior forward Cody Stumbo said. “All fifteen guys can come in and contribute in a big game. Coach knows that and we as players know that as well. Even if we do have foul trouble, we won’t worry a lot about it because we do have the depth this year.”
Hammonds is relying on the big three of Stumbo, Cody Malicoat (junior forward from Jellico, Tennessee) and Tyler Rogers (junior forward from Lexington, Kentucky) to provide leadership and experience on the court. Stumbo averaged 10.6 points per game and 5.6 rebounds per game. The Bowling Green, Kentucky product is also very cerebral and has a high IQ for the game. Malicoat, who began last season on the bench but later became a starter, averaged 10.2 PPG and 4.9 RPG. Rogers led the team in rebounds (7.1 per game) and blocks (3.5 per game) while producing about 13 points per game.
One player to keep an eye on throughout the season is Trevor Tiller. A transfer from Transylvania University, Tiller is a sophomore out of Paintsville, Kentucky. The guard has the aptitude to beat defenders off the dribble and can keep the opposition honest with his shooting ability. He can also present problems with his physicality and athleticism.
Mason Pack (sophomore forward from Mingo, West Virginia) is another player that the head coach thinks can have a major impact. The West Virginia Wesleyan transfer not only has a solid inside game but shows adequate range on the perimeter for a post player. Pack has been away from organized basketball for over a year though, so Hammond believes it will take time for the big man to get back into the speed and rhythm of the game.
Austin Crisp is a freshman guard out of Flemingsburg, Kentucky. It is never easy for a freshman to make the transition from the high school level to the collegiate level but the team feels that he will be up for the challenge. Crisp is solid at driving to the basket and is a good free throw shooter, important traits for a point guard.
Trevor Combs (junior guard from Hazard, Kentucky) is a guy that can make shots when the game is on the line and does a great job of not turning the ball over. That is an important characteristic to have as a point guard and one of the greatest assets he brings, according to Hammond.
Jordan Akins (junior guard from Corbin, Kentucky) does a good job of slashing to the basket. Akins is most effective when he can make defenders miss and take them off the bounce. He also has deceptive speed.
Zac Crawford (junior forward from Church Hill, Tennessee) has solid shooting ability and displays strong work ethic.
Dakota Hall (sophomore forward from Hi Hat, Kentucky) has good range beyond the arc and plays the game with toughness and passion. Hall finished last season strong and Coach Hammond believes he can pick up this season where he left off a year ago. He provides a lot of energy as well.
Chase Adkins (sophomore guard from Tazewell, Tennessee) is a solid defender and can give the other team problems with his quick hands.
Expect to see more production out of Austin Brewer. The sophomore forward out of Crum, West Virginia sat for most of last season but he should be a more developed and improved player this time around.
Devon Mills (sophomore guard from Barbourville, Kentucky) is a solid shooter but is more renowned for his hustle on the court and aggravates the ball handler with his defensive prowess.
A player that had hoped to play an important role for the team was Jake Handshoe. The former Mars Hill transfer suffered a fracture kneecap and will not be playing this season. The Eagles lose a very athletic and dynamic player in Handshoe but hopefully the sophomore guard from Mount Sterling, Kentucky can make a speedy recovery and recuperate for next year.
One of the reasons as to why Coach Hammond is so excited about this team is the versatility. The coach wants to be able to push the tempo but he knows he won’t always be able to play the game at high pace. Sometimes, the Eagles will have to dictate tempo by slowing the game down.
“We will do whatever we can do to go against the other team and what they’re trying to do. Against some teams, we are going to try to push the ball and get as many shots as we can. We will try to use our athleticism to try to wear them down by the end of the game. However, there will be teams that we face that will be more athletic than us and we have to control the tempo of the game. The good thing about this group of kids is that we are versatile and can do both. I like to run (the ball) up-and-down the court but against certain teams we can’t do that because that plays right into their hands. We just have to take a game-by-game approach and exploit the other team’s weakness and hopefully we can come out on top.”
The rest of the roster includes Jake Allen (freshman forward from London, Kentucky), Grayson Griffith (freshman guard from Ashland, Kentucky), Matthew Thompson (freshman guard from Hindman, Kentucky) and Dondre Warren (freshman forward from Newark, New Jersey).