By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Graduating your all-time leading scorer, four-year point guard, an outside shooter and a few big men leaves a void.
Entering his second year at Tipton-Rosemark Academy, Head Basketball Coach Jason Morgan knew his second season would be more of a challenge on paper with the departure of JT Moody, Kevin Sansom, Zack Barnes and others.
“What we do have is a group of really motivated young men,” Morgan noted. “The group who are juniors and seniors this year, when they were freshmen and sophomore, were on a one-win JV team.
“They certainly know how it feels like to be on the bottom of the barrel and not do well,” he added. “They took some major steps last year. A lot of those guys as 10th graders when 10-5.”
Last year’s senior played a part in that development by dominating practices and the locker room. The underclassmen were forces to mature faster keeping up with the skill level of the Class of 2012.
“One of things these juniors and these seniors this year just say continuously, ‘We’re not glad those guys are gone,’” Morgan said. “‘But we’ve really been waiting for our chance.’”
The 2012-13 Rebels are ready to prove they are not a level below last year’s seniors.
“Is there talent here?” Morgan asked rhetorically. “Oh, yeah. We’re going to have team speed this year. We have a fast team.
“We have a team that can really get up and down the floor,” he continued. “At all times we’ll have at least three people who can hit the three-point shot out there on the floor. We really do a good job of spreading the floor.”
With a mindset to spread the floor, Morgan said he will still feature a post threat with JT’s younger brother.
“Matt Moody, it’s his time to shine,” he said. “He’s really a beast for us in the middle. He’s a little undersize for a center. But what he lacks in height, he benched 300 last week. He squats over 500. He runs a 4.57, 40. And he can jump out the jump.”
The Moody known as Moose will need to be a force in the paint with TRA graduating three players 6’4 or taller.
With a fastbreak approach, Morgan came into the preseason more concern about replacing longtime point Sansom.
“The No. 1 issue in the offseason was point guard,” he acknowledged. “There were a couple of kids we looked at. I have one guy who was a junior last year. And because of Kevin and Zack, he didn’t see much time. His name is Jesse Marrow. He’s the first kid who is going to absorb some of those minutes.
Braxton Ross and Johnie Sanfratello will also garner some minutes in the backcourt. Sanfratello is a freshmen Morgan wants to see develop into the next Sansom of running point for years to come.
“If there is anybody out there who is saying Rosemark is done, they could not be more wrong,” he said.
In the Rebels’ half of Division II-A in the West Region teams like USJ, JCS and St. George’s also graduated a lot of talent.
“The league is about like our team,” he noted. “Everybody graduated a big chunk. Fayette Academy is the team who graduated a couple of good players. But they actually graduated the smallest amount. So everybody you talk to says, ‘Oh this is their year to do it.’”
Morgan added that Rossville also has a veteran roster returning.
“I don’t know if Rossville won a league game in a number of years,” he said. “They graduated a starter. Other than Fayette, they bring back the most. And they have a lot of size, especially down low.
“I’ve had more than a few people call me and say,” Morgan continued, “‘You know you guys are picked dead last this year.’ It’s because we graduated so much. But I tell them, ‘Let them say that.’”
Morgan said if his team can build cohesion and dictate the style of play every night, they have a chance for postseason success in 2012-13.
“Our half is winnable,” he said. “It’s winnable for us or anybody. It’s a toss up right now. Fayette is a little bit ahead of everybody else because of what they have. Our half is winnable.
“If you get that one or two spot, you get a first round bye,” he concluded. “That’s one of our goals is to get one of those two spots. And until somebody tells us we can’t we’re going after it every night.”