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1st Region Preview

1. Marshall County (32-3) -
The burning question about Marshall County is how much time star swingman Chase Clark will have to spend at point guard. For the Marshals: the less the better. Clark was one of the region's best and most underrated players a year agoa capable scorer and rebounder, but he rarely had to handle the ball. That could change now that Noah Steele, the ninth man last year, is the only other guard on the roster with much varsity experience. Steele had some shoulder and knee issues in football season, so he could get off to a slow start, which means that sophomore Nathan Solomon might see some time at the point from the outset. Austin Rentfrow, a 6-6 junior, is one of the region's best post players and will be counted on for a double-double every night. He leads a young collection of post players that could see time if coach Gus Gillespie chooses to go with a big lineup on occasion. Word is Marshall could be getting some reinforcements from the football team — Casey White is a banger who played a key role in the 2011 postseason, but didn't play a year ago. Also, Jamie Gilland could be a good perimeter defender.

2. Graves County (19-14) - Four of the Eagles' five starters played football this fall, which is unusual for the program and might mean a slower than usual start. Graves is certainly balanced, with guards Mason Beale, Tyler Starkey and Jake Williams and forward Peyton Puckett all capable of scoring 15-20 points on a given night. Beale is the point guardaggressive with the ball and unafraid to take it to the basket. Starkey and Williams are capable of lighting up the perimeter, and Puckett is a capable scorer and rebounder. Forward Zach Kimbler can also knock down the perimeter jumper, giving Graves plenty of options on the outside and causing bigger teams some matchup headaches.

3. Calloway County (11-20) - The Lakers have quite a collection of young talent led by 6-6 junior center Michael Arnett and a pair of high-ceiling sophomores in 6-3 guard Parker Adams and 6-5 forward Skyler Hunter. Arnett is a true low-post threatgood for a double-double virtually every night. Parker can handle the ball and score from the perimeter, and Hunter is a matchup nightmare with his ability to fill it up from outside. Calloway's fate will be determined by its maturity and the play of sophomore guards Connor Wagner and Wade Carter. If they rise to the occasion, the Lakers could be a tough out in March.

4. Lone Oak (14-18) - It's the last go-round for the Purple Flash as well as rivals Reidland and Heath, all of which form the new consolidated McCracken County. Lone Oak could go out with a bang, and its first district title since the Sweet 16 run of 2005. Guard Kam Chumbler and swingman Zach McKinney are Lone Oak's two biggest perimeter threats and scorers. Zach Perry can bang inside and Austin Nall provides some size in reserve. Lucas Englert returns in the backcourt, as does Sergio Vega, who was a regular off the bench last year. Lone Oak also got an infusion of size with 6-3, 230-pound forward Seth English, who attended Lone Oak as a freshman but started for Community Christian and starred for that school's baseball team the last two years. He left CCA when it didn't have enough players to field a baseball team next spring. Freshman Zyaire Hughes (6'-2") is a great athlete who played a starring role on the football team this fall. He could be a key player by season's end.

5. St. Mary (21-11) - The regional picture gets murky from here, with any of the next 7-9 teams able to knock off each other on a given night. We'll start with the Vikings, who are led by junior guard Patrick Hubert. He became one of the region's biggest scorers last season, developing the ability to take the ball to the basket, which will complement his perimeter shooting. The St. Mary club figured to be a legitimate contender in the All "A" Classic state tournament. But that was before 6'4" forward Josh Lutz moved to Kansas with his family. Now the Vikings face some rebuildingwith only two returning starters. The other is Elliott Bray, who was solid in the post last year, but is also capable of knocking down a mid-range jumper. Much will be put on the new point guard, junior Mason Vaughanthe team's best ballhandler, and also a perimeter threat. Wes Averill gets first crack at Lutz's spot and is a good passer who can also score from time to time. Having grown a couple of inches and now standing 6'3", he will also be asked to rebound more often. Tyler Dome could develop into a dangerous 3-point threat.

6. Mayfield (16-11) - Never use December as a gauge of the Cardinals, who always have a healthy number of football players who come in late, after that team makes its long playoff run. That is true again, with super-strong forward Jonathan Jackson and lightning-quick guard Jordan Brown expected to be major contributors. But the Cardinals also field a group of solid non-football guys, led by 6-5 forward Jacob Tyler and guards Demetriuse Overton and Deante Love. Overton, Love and Brown wil give the Cardinals the quickest trio of guards in the region. By January, Mayfield could be a tough team to beat and a legitimate threat to make some big noise in the All "A" Classic.

7. Paducah Tilghman (18-14) - This might be a leap of faith in a Tilghman squad that lacks some offensive punch, especially if swingman Chris Davis (a double-digit scorer at Ballard Memorial last season) doesn't get a favorable eligibility ruling from the KHSAA. Olajuwon Harmon and guard Donald Overstreet are the most experienced returneesboth will be counted on to score. Conner Layne is a versatile defender and Tilghman needs some consistent play around the basket from Eric Youngblood and Emmanuel Abbage. Tilghman will win some games with its speed and athleticism, but making headway among the region's elite will be tough.

8. Carlisle County (14-15) - Guard play will determine the Comets' fate, with 6'8", 240-pound center Marcus Burnett one of the region's dominant big men. Derik Elliott is a scorer who can take the ball to the basket and finish, but the biggest question is who will take care of the ball. Tanner Guhy tried that role last season, but he is best used as a spot-up shooter. Cody Rowe can drill the three, and the best option for Carlisle at the point is sophomore Trey Carrico.

9. Fulton City (17-13) - Few can match the Bulldogs' inside power with 6'4", 290-pound Khalil Frame and 6'6" forward Jordan Miller, if Miller can stay inside – chances are he won't. Miller is a capable ballhandler and mid-range scorer with the ability to play on the wing. The hope is that he won't have to handle the ball so much, but that is only if small guards Devon Jackson and Bryan Johnson come along farther than expected. Depth was in short supply for the Bulldogs, who rarely used more than six players a year ago. That will be the case again.

10. Heath (18-12) - Heath made a run to the All "A" Classic semifinals last season, but point guard Luke Jordan is the only returning starter. Still, the Pirates could be a solid club by February. Caleb Stonecipher can score from 3-point range and will be counted on for more this year. They're hoping that 6-3 Bryce Rodgers develops into a consistent low-post force. LaDarrius Jackson was a star for the Pirates' football team after moving in from Georgia, and there is interest in seeing how his size and athleticism translate to the basketball court.

11. Murray (11-17) - Joey Adair's team may take a while to jell with so many key players coming out after the football team concludes its playoff run. Guards Dylan Boone and Andre Phillips and forward Dante Howard will be regular cogs in the Tigers' rotation once they get into basketball form. Guards Logan Foster, James Boone and Daniel Nisbit will be factors, as will the size provided by Eric Wann and Taynden Sheppard.

12. Hickman County (13-13) - Guard Eric Kerney is one of the region's top players, but how much help can the rest of the Falcons provide him? Billy Speed will man the point and Ryan Harpole will see backcourt minutes. Justin Jackson and James Bolen provide some badly-needed size.

13. Reidland (8-23) -
The Greyhounds showed some signs of improvement last year and have plenty of experience to rely on in guards Jared Burnett, Austin Collins and Zach Belt and forwards Clayton Ali and Sam Guill.The Greyhounds showed some signs of improvement last year and have plenty of experience to rely on in guards Jared Burnett, Austin Collins and Zach Belt and forwards Clayton Ali and Sam Guill. If Collins can take over the point, Burnett is freed up to score more often. Belt can shoot the 3-pointer.

14. Ballard Memorial (11-18) -
The Bombers expected to be in the thick of things, until two big transfers took away two of three leading scorers from last year's no-seniors club — Zack Chaykowsky left with his father (former head coach Nick Chaykowsky), for Union County, and Chris Davis moved to Paducah Tilghman. That leaves Clay Chandler, a dangerous 3-point shooter, but not much else in the way of proven talent for new coach Matt Botnera Clark County native who was on the coaching staff at Asbury College before taking the Ballard job in early summer. Joey Bommarito and JayBo Sadler get first shot at low-post duty and guards Trevor Langston and Tanner Davis have some varsity experience.

15. Fulton County (3-22) - The early-season dismissal of some key players for off-court issues resulted in a long year for a Fulton County club that had reached the regional semifinals in 2011. Guards Octavious Smith, Domontrial Pierce and Shaquon Wilson are back, as are forwards LaKarian Johnson and LaDarrian Polk.

16. Community Christian (15-14) - CCA had hopes of being more competitive than ever, but the school's inability to field a baseball team cost it four players, including post player Seth English (now at Lone Oak) and prolific 3-point shooter Jacob Underhill, who is at Paducah Tilghman. Left to pick up the pieces are guards Marcus Rommelman, Trey Thomas and Thomas Wade with forwards Jacob Bridges and T'Neal Robinson.

17. Christian Fellowship (2-24) - CFS doesn't compete for a district title, choosing instead to concentrate its efforts on the Kentucky Christian Athletic Conference, which includes several schools of similar size and mission.

Top players in the 1st Region

1. Chase Clark, 6'2" guard (Marshall County) - Clark is a player who could morph into a big scorer or creator, and chances are, the Marshals, who were hit hard by backcourt losses, will ask him to do a little of both.

2. Jordan Miller, 6'6" forward (Fulton City) - A natural point forward, Miller will be counted on to handle the ball more this season. His ability to score from the wing and take the ball to the basket will cause a lot of headaches for opposing teams.

3. Patrick Hubert, 6'3" guard (St. Mary) - The Vikings' offense goes through him, and with good reason — he can score in a myriad of ways and from all angles. It's hard to decide the best way to defend him; because, he can also burn defenders from the perimeter.

4. Marcus Burnett, 6'8" center (Carlisle County) - He was already a double-double machine and had several 20-20 games last season, but he was even tougher top stop after shedding some baby fat and getting down to a solid 240 pounds.

5. Eric Kerney, 6'2" guard (Hickman County) - He can do it all — score, rebound, run the offense when needed and cause problems on the defensive end. For the Falcons, he sometimes has to. If he played for a more high-profile team, his name would be a little more familiar.

6. Clay Chandler, 6'3" guard (Ballard Memorial) - It's appropriate that he plays for the Bombers. Ask Warren East about Chandler, who hit nine threes and scored 44 points in a win over the Raiders last season. But with the Bombers' two other top scorers lost via transfer, Chandler will see every junk defense known to man.

7. Michael Arnett, 6'7" center (Calloway County) - Known as "Big Country" in the Lakers' program, he's another of a fine group of true post players sprinkled throughout the region.

8. Austin Rentfrow, 6'6" center (Marshall County) - He was surrounded by four guards last year, but may get some inside help when the Marshals go big. A true, back-to-the-basket post player, Rentfrow can also knock down a mid-range jumper.

9. Jacob Tyler, 6'5" forward (Mayfield) - Tall and rangy, Tyler was the region's most improved player last season. He plays inside for the otherwise height-deprived Cardinals, but he can score from up to 15 feet and is a solid passer.

10. Parker Adams, 6'3" guard (Calloway County) - His older siblings were true post players, but Adams' guard skills serve him well on the wing. He is capable of being a big scorer every night.