By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Experience is usually king in Division II-A basketball.
Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel Head Coach Jason Morgan hopes that trend continues in 2013-14. Last season the Rebels were a competitive bunch of underclassmen who dropped games to senior-heavy oppositions.
Now teams like USJ, Rossville and defending champs Fayette Academy have graduated several players. And TRA enters the season with a talented senior class poised for some revenge.
“Things are shaping up real well,” Morgan said. “Any year you have a lot of seniors and experience coming back you would like to think you’re going to have a good season. We have two distinct groups.
“We have a good group of seniors,” he added. “Which I think is going to make our varsity team more competitive. And we also have a talented group of sophomores. I am excited.”
The sophomores have impressed Morgan over the last two years finishing with a winning record in JV. Last season the group went 11-8.
“We’ve got some sophomores, two in particular who are going to contribute,” Morgan noted. “I’m going to let them play a little JV. But I expect them to contribute on varsity too. One is Johnny Sanfartello. He’s a point guard.
”The other is a kid, why he did not play basketball the past two years is beyond me,” he continued. “He’s the tallest kid in our school. He’s a 10th grader and didn’t play as an eighth grader or as a ninth grader. Houston Hall is walking into a good situation.”
Hall will have time to mature into a post player role for the 2013-14 Rebels. Morgan expects him to hit the boards and work on his offensive game in the paint.
Sanfartello had a chance to grow within the varsity setup this past summer. With some key players out, Sanfartello ran the show at point guard.
That duo will be apart of the rotation featuring several seniors.
“Everybody knew we were going to be a little young and struggle experiencewise and leadershipwise last year,” Morgan said. “The record was very, very deceptive last year. We were 0-10 in district. We were 10-19 overall. I really felt like there were 12 games I think of with a couple minutes to go they were one or two possession games.
“How does the Lord grow you? Sometimes He puts you in the fire,” he continued. “And last year we were definitely in the fire. I know if those kids were paying attention to so many of those close losses, they had to walk away from that with learned lessons. Hopefully they’ll be better from that.”
The Rebels were 2-10 in close games last year. Morgan is hoping those experiences will help his corps group move forward featuring standout power forward Matt Moody.
Like his older brother, former Rebel JT Moody, Matt is poised to join the 1,000-point club sometime in November or early December.
Moody is a force in the paint with power and leaping ability. Another athletic player on the court will be Connor Alexander at the small forward and shooting guard posts.
Morgan was looking forward to receiving a boost on the floor from the energy of Nick Biggs. But the senior guard tore his ACL and will miss his senior season.
He’s still been attending practice and encouraging his teammates as the season approaches. Biggs was the third leading scorer last season and shot 80 percent from the foul line.
That scoring void will have to be picked up by players like senior guard Blain Curtis. The sharpshooter has the skills to increase his scoring with an accurate three-point shot.
Morgan said if Curtis shoots a good percentage from the perimeter that will open up things for Moody in the post to avoid triple team defenses.
A couple of other seniors expected to contribute once football season is officially over are Zach Dickson and Austin Chambers.
”Those six guys are a great class of kids,” Morgan said. “I really like this class of kids. I like working with them a lot.”
Those seniors will have the challenge of helping the Rebels take down preseason favorite St. George’s.
”Last year was a senior-heavy year for everybody except for us,” Morgan said. “St. George’s didn’t graduate a ton last year. Last year was a year when a lot of the top-tear players in our league took a diploma in May.
“We feel good about the group we have back this year,” he concluded. “We feel they give us a chance to compete in every district game. The St. George’s games are included.”