Scott County is the defending champion, having beaten Woodford County in the region finals last year. The Cardinals made it to the championship game in Rupp, until they ran into a juggernaut in Louisville Trinity. Going into this season, there are several teams that could make a claim for the region's top spot. In a poll of coaches, Madison Central was easily the most mentioned as the top team, followed by Henry Clay. Scott County and Paul Laurence Dunbar will be in the mix, boosted by transfers, while perennial power Lexington Catholic can never be counted out and Lafayette returns a tall, talented group. One thing is for sure, the region has as many top players and teams as in recent memory. On any given night, any of the those six teams has the capability to represent the region in Rupp. In fact, Lexington Catholic Coach Brandon Salsman feels like these six are all among the state's Top 15 teams. The 43rd District, where Salsman’s Knights reside, will eliminate two of the top seven before the 11th Region Tournament in Richmond.
Preseason 11th Region Rankings
1. Madison Central - Senior guard Dominique Hawkins will lead Allen Feldhaus’ Indians this season, after a disappointing loss to Woodford County in the region semifinals last year ended a 31-2 season. The athletic Hawkins (19.9 ppg) will be joined by fellow senior returning starters Ken-Jah Bosley (14.6 ppg) and Quan Taylor (12.1 ppg, 8 rpg). Feldhaus, who said his team’s experience is offset by their lack of size, also expects seniors Hunter Stocker, Daniel Parke and George Walker, as well as junior City Alexander, sophomore Sam Jones and freshman Cameron Thomas to see playing time this year.
2. Henry Clay - After a disappointing first-round district loss to Bryan Station ended their 21-9 season, Daniel Brown’s Blue Devils look to rebound this season, led by a group of talented juniors: Trey Grundy (11 ppg, 6 rpg), Jordan Green (13 ppg, 4 rpg) and Christen Cunningham (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg). A 4th starter,senior center Darien Tichenor 6’5”, returns, while Jeremiah Tisdale, a talented 6’1” sophomore wing, is expected to have a breakout season. Teddy Ware, a junior dead-eye spot shooter will also contribute. Brown says this team must “work hard, play hard and take no days off” this year to be successful. If Henry Clay can follow Brown's words and realize its potential this season, it won’t be a surprise to see them representing the region in Rupp Arena in March.
3. Paul Laurence Dunbar – Scott Chalk takes over for Justin Yeary, and the cupboards are not bare for the Bulldogs. Chalk, no stranger to the 11th Region (Franklin County and Frankfort being his last two stops), will count on the backcourt tandem of 5’9” senior Mike Smith (19.3 ppg last year) and 6’1” senior William Gary (18.8 ppg). Other contributors returning include senior post player Taylor King (8.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and senior Jamal Adu-Peasah (5.8 ppg) as well as junior guard Donnie Lewis. Eric Trigg, a 6’5” senior who was at Lexington Catholic for two years before sitting out last year while transferring, is expected to have a big season. The biggest unknown to those around the state will be 6‘4”newcomer E.J. Floreal, who moved when his father took over the track program at the University of Kentucky. Floreal averaged 14 points and seven rebounds for Palo Alto High School last year and has at least one D1 offer. From all accounts, Floreal should make a huge difference for Dunbar and help an already talented team challenge for the title this year.
4. Scott County – Billy Hicks is faced with the challenge of replacing Tamron Manning and Isaiah Ivey – both currently at D1 schools. In all, the Cardinals have to replace five of their top eight, but not is all lost in Georgetown as they return their backcourt of Quin Richardson (8.5 ppg) and sharpshooter Trent Gilbert (14.4 ppg and 47% from three) along with wing Jalen Haddix (5.6 ppg). Hicks, who eclipsed the 800-win mark last season, will depend on a few players who have seen limited varsity minutes so far: seniors Andrew Short and Tyler Page, as well as juniors Tony Martini, Seth Crank and Matt Murray. While the return of junior Dylan Portwood to basketball this year could be a factor, the enrollment of 6’8” post Jordan Tribble (a D1 potential recruit (who played in Florida last year and North Carolina as a sophomore), should make a difference on the inside for the Cardinals. NOTE: 6’9” senior wing Neils Bunschoten from the Netherlands, who played on his country’s junior national team, is enrolled at Scott County but has not yet been ruled eligible. This ranking might be too low if he becomes eligible.
5. Lafayette - Michael Mendenhall III returns everybody for his second season with the Generals – led by talented 6’8” junior Jackson Davis, who averaged 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds last year. Besides Davis, Lafayette also returns starters Tranard Chester (10.7 ppg), Nick Trisko (6’8”, averaged 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game) and point guard Lance Blakley (5 ppg). 6’5” senior Charles Sweat-Washington (9.2 ppg) , 6’6” sophomore Shon Wright (4 ppg, 3 rpg ) and 6’4” senior Aaron Evans are expected to be key contributors. The Generals have massive size, but averaged 20 turnovers a game last season and committed 99 more turnovers than they forced, which was a primary factor in last year’s disappointing 13-19 record. The generals were playing their best bastketball at the end of last season, so it would be a shock if their win-loss record didn't improve this year. In fact, it wouldn't be a surprise to see the Generals win this region.
6. Lexington Catholic - Jack Whitman returns to lead Brandon Salsman’s squad. But they face replacing three starters from last year’s group. Whitman, a 6’9” power forward who averaged 19.8 points and 10 rebounds per game, along with three-point specialist Dillon Avare (40% from three) return as starters from last year’s 24-8 team. Salsman will count on 6’6” senior center Tom Banahan, who gave the Knights quality minutes off the bench last year. Senior Evan Fraliex returns after a two-year hiatus to focus on baseball. Fraliex saw a few varsity minutes as a freshman, so Salsman is excited to see him return. 6’7” junior Robert Dence is the team’s most improved player, according to Salsman, and will add some length off the bench. The coach will need to count on talented sophomores Tanner Johnson, Jarad Griffin, Reese Ryan and Michael Talbot to increase their roles this year if Catholic plans to remain a contender in the region. And, that is something Salsman expects. “If we can get the type of play that we have come to expect from our inexperienced guys and add that to what our experienced guys were able to do last year, I think we have the makings of a great team – one that can compete in the toughest district in the state and the toughest region,” he said in an email.
7. Lexington Christian - Brad Carter moves up to the head coaching spot after serving as lead assistant to Tommy Huston. Carter’s first task will be to find a way to replace the loss of leading scorer Taylor Barnette. LCA got a glimpse of that prospect when Barnette suffered an injury that took him out of the lineup for the last several weeks of the season. They will have to do better than their 3-6 finish and 26-point loss to Dunbar in the first round of the district to be in contention this year. Senior guard Tyler Harville (12.6 ppg) will return his scoring ability to the Eagles, who again will be the favorite to claim the region’s All "A" title. Senior center Jon Lannertone (8.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) must be a force in the middle, while Carter is counting on senior guard Taylor Blair (5.9 ppg) to have a big year. Sophomore Matt Rose (3 ppg) and junior Michael Young will be expected to step up their production this year for this inexperienced team. In fact, Carter says the key to success this year is “how our inexperience handles the stage.”
8. Woodford County - Nobody in the 11th Region lost more than Scott Hundley’s Yellowjackets. A year after making a run to the region finals, Hundley must replace 75 percent of his team's shooting and four of his starters from last season’s 22-13 team – including Jay Johnson and David Greenwell. The most experienced returnees will be Junior guard Eli Boggess (8.1 ppg) and senior wing Landen Young (6.9 ppg), both part-time starters, and senior post player Chase Henderlight. Hundley expects junior Chris Honabach, who didn’t play last year, to be one of his team’s leading scorers. If Woodford County expects to continue to rise in the 11th Region, according to Hundley, they are going to have get good guard play and shoot the ball well.
9. Bryan Station - Mike Allen’s Defenders are faced with the prospect of replacing leading scorer Jaylen Beckham (18.4 ppg). They were 12-21 last season, but made the region, after stunning Henry Clay in the first round of the 42nd District Tournament. Allen is counting on senior Tyler Smith (4.4 ppg) and junior Daquice Allen (3 ppg) to step up their contributions to the cause this year, and hopes junior point guard Jordan Henry (4 ppg in just 12 games and 184 minutes last year) can stay healthy. Marcellus Washington, a streaky shooter from distance, must also take a step forward this season, after scoring five per game last year. The Defenders might get a boost from the return of Larry Morton, who averaged 14.3 points per game, but only shot 31% from the field before Allen dismissed him from the team after 21 games. Allen said in an email in mid-October he was hopeful Morton would get on the court at some point during the season.
10. Tates Creek - Wayne Breeden returns a group with little experience from last season’s 12-16 team. 6’4” sophomore Jordan Fucci (10 ppg, 8 rpg) and two seniors – 6’4” Braxton McFarland (8 ppg, 4 rpg) and 6’1” Vincent Mattox (6 ppg) – are the only returnees with experience. Breeden expects senior Landon Love, junior Evan Davis, sophomore Desmond Duke and freshman Khiry Shelton to contribute, and he says the “growth of the younger players as the season progresses” will determine how much success the Commodores enjoy this year.
11. Franklin County - Tommy Johnson returns to Franklin County after assisting for one year at Lafayette. Johnson, who was previously an assistant for the departed Scott Chalk at Franklin County for several years, returns ultra-quick point guard Ryan Timmons. Timmons, who was also a stud on the football field, is a tough matchup for anyone in the region. If his football teammates Logan Woodside and Chris Roberts return to the hardwood after football, this ranking may be too low. Casey Tabor also returns for the Flyers. Johnson says he must get it done on the defensive end if they're to be successful this year and challenge for the 41st District title.
12. Richmond Model - Coach Wes Scarberry returns four starters and what he termed “the most talented group Model has seen in a long time.” They will be led by 5’9” senior guard A.J. Hammons, a 4-year varsity starter who averaged 15 points and four steals a game last season. Other returning starters include 6’4” senior Jon Ballard (8 pts, 6 rebs last year), 6’1” senior Jesse Middleton (8 reb per game) and 5’8” senior Anthony Gerald. Scarberry also expects senior Brendan Hill, the team’s best 3-point shooter and a part time starter last year, as well as Caleb Kincaid, Cody Jones and Levi Ages to contribute. Zach Rice-Gordon is a 6’-3” junior that could surprise. Scarberry plans to play up-tempo and use his team’s experience to improve on last season’s 16-14 record.
13. Madison Southern - Senior point guard Tyler Abshear, who averaged 21 points and seven rebounds last year, will lead Shane Buttry’s team in hope of improving on last year’s 10-20 record. Mike Rothermel also returns after scoring 11 points per game last year, and Buttry said he will break the school’s record for steals this year. Madison Southern will rely on football star Damian Harris (last year, a freshman starter) to be the team’s defensive stopper, while senior big men Spencer Slone and Nick Hume as well as junior Blake Hedges try to rebound from an injury plagued season. Brothers Marlin and Drew Taylor are also expected to contribute. “We usually rely on the three-point shot, but this year we are focusing on physical defense to create our offensive opportunities.”
14. Frankfort - Matthew Yates enters his second season at Frankfort hoping to improve on last year’s 12-16 record. Senior Aaron Jackson, who is drawing D1 interest on the gridiron, will be the catalyst in leading the Panthers back to a level of success that they enjoyed two years ago during their 21-win season. Jackson, at 6’1”, is one of the best rebounders of his size anywhere, averaging 14 boards per game last year to go along with his 14 ppg. Senior guard Jalen Oliver (13 ppg), returns in the backcourt as well as sophomore point guard Jalen Washington (5.8 apg) –another multiple-sport athlete. Others expected to contribute include seniors Teantre McGee, Chris Hawkins, Trevon Washington and Daevon Bates, along with sophomores Jeffrey Quire, Trey Thomas and Travis Skelton and freshmen Anthony Robinson and Matthew Smith.
15. Berea - Cameron Jackson takes over for the departed Bill Smallwood, and he will be counting on seniors Eli Woodie (6.4 ppg) and Daniel Hubbard (4.6 ppg) to increase their workload as they help to replace leading scorers Barry Scudder-Davis (18 ppg) and Ben Miller (10 ppg). Junior Trey Terrill and sophomore Andy Allen are also expected to contribute for the Pirates this year.
16. Western Hills - Steve Wooldridge looks to rebound from last season’s 5-24 season with the help of senior guards Kevin Booth and Robby Fox. Wooldridge was thrust into the head job late last season after the quick departure of Tom Crews, who resigned before ever coaching a game for the Wolverines.
17. Sayre - Coach Ted Hall has an unexpected hole to fill from last year’s team as bruising post player Ray Brewer (18 ppg, 11 rpg) recently underwent Tommy John surgery – the Cornell baseball commitment is expected to miss his entire senior season. Brewer's absence will force Coach Hall to move forward with only one returning player who averaged more than four points per game for last season’s 8-18 team: junior guard Justin Sanders (7.5 ppg). Hall expects seniors Ben Davis and Duncan Courtney, juniors Henry Wolf and Martin Durmov and sophomore Quinn Pergande to contribure this season.
Top Players in the 11th Region
1. Jack Whitman (Lexington Catholic) - 6’8” senior power forward (who has committed to William & Mary) averaged 19.8 points and 10 rebounds per game last season. Whitman will need Catholic to replace a couple of three-point shooters lost to graduation to help him continue drawing single coverage on the inside. If he does, look for him to easily duplicate the numbers he put up last season. While the 11th Region has a bunch of talented players, nobody can guard him one-on-one on the inside.
2. Dominique Hawkins (Madison Central) - 6’0” senior point guard, who averaged 19.9 ppg last season, led the Indians to a 31-2 record and is expected to become the school’s all-time leading scorer at some point this season. Hawkins is a great athlete who does a little bit of everything. With his athleticism, he can defend multiple positions, while also hitting the jumper or attacking the basket offensively. He has received some D1 interest and will make some college coach happy the next four years. “Better person than he is a player,” his coach, Allen Feldhaus, said.
3. Jackson Davis (Lafayette) - Probably has the biggest upside of anybody in the region. If he matures on the court this year, he could easily shoot to the top of this list. Davis averaged 13.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season, but he must improve on those numbers this year to prove he deserves consideration as the best player in the region. The 6’8” junior needs to concentrate on his inside game and improve his mid-range game as he prepares for the next level.
4. Trey Grundy (Henry Clay) - 6’7” junior (11 ppg, 6 rpg) rivals Davis with a huge upside. Grundy can post up smaller players or go by bigger players that try to guard him off the dribble. He must improve his consistency to fully reach his potential. Grundy has offers from four D1 schools: Samford, Miami (OH), Northern KY and New Mexico.
5. Jordan Green (Henry Clay) - 6’5” junior wing (13 ppg, 4 rpg) who can knock down the three-point shot as well as slashing to the basket. Would like to see him to do more for the Blue Devils this season, as he sometimes defers too much to teammates. Getting that killer instinct will be the key, not only for himself, but for the overall success of his team. He too, holds a couple of D1 offers.
6. Christen Cunningham (Henry Clay) - 5”10” junior point guard (12 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg) is a flat-out competitor whose basketball IQ is off the charts. He's a pure slasher who gets to the rim at will. He has improved his jumper, but must hit the outside shot to force opponents to guard him at the 3-point line. Cunningham has drawn D1 interest, including an offer from Samford. On top of his basketball skills, he also is a stud in the classroom. According to Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown, he has a 3.8 GPA.
7. Quin Richardson (Scott County) - 5’10” senior point guard averaged 8.5 points per game last year for the Cardinals. A starter since he was a sophomore, he has taken a backseat to higher profile teammates the last few years, and has concentrated on running the team inside of looking for his offense. That will change this year as Richardson will be relied upon for more scoring this season – that shouldn’t be a problem. He has an offer from Campbellsville and drawing interest from some other schools, including Emory Riddle.
8. Mike Smith (Paul Laurence Dunbar) - 5’9” senior guard has been a fixture in the 11th Region since he was in middle school and starting at Sayre. He led Dunbar with 19.3 ppg last year while adding 4.2 rpg and shooting 48% from the field. He is quick and aggressive, both offensively and defensively, and his aggressiveness is one of his biggest strengths. His offensive output may suffer, with to the amount of talent around him this year, but that won’t limit his impact on his team’s success.
9. Ken-Jah Bosley (Madison Central) - Unsung running-mate of Hawkins in Madison Central’s backcourt, Bosley (14.6 ppg) can shoot the three with consistency and has a nice mid-range game as well. He also makes things happen on the defensive end of the floor. It seems when things are going well for Bosley, the Indians are at their best. Look for even bigger things from him in his senior season.
10. (tie) William Gary (Paul Laurence Dunbar) - Senior 6’1” swingman is the lesser known of Dunbar’s big two, although he averaged 18.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game last year. He has a nice drive game to go with a mid-range jumper. On top of that, he is a good defender, with the ability to make a difference on both ends of the floor.
10. (tie) Quan Taylor (Madison Central) - 6’3” center, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds last year, is a very good high school basketball player. He is a freak athlete who is tough to handle on the inside. He blocks shots and rebounds and is a perfect piece for the Indians. His size at his position may hinder him on the next level, but he is a big reason Madison Central enters the season as the favorite in the 11th Region.
Others to Watch (in no particular order) E.J. Floreal, Paul Laurence Dunbar; Trent Gilbert and Jordan Tribble, Scott County; Ryan Timmons, Franklin County; Nick Trisko, Lafayette; Tyler Harville, Lexington Christian; Dillon Avare, Lexington Catholic; Aaron Jackson, Frankfort. NOTE: Floreal and Tribble are the two wild-cards, having transferred into their respective schools. We will be tracking their progress to see if they warrant a spot in the Top 10.