12th Region Boys Basketball Preview

Basketball season is just around the corner and teams across the Bluegrass are getting themselves ready for what should be another exciting year of Kentucky Hoops. The conversation so many avid fans are having at this time of the years is who will be the best team and represent their region at Rupp Arena come March? Most know it is not an easy task to win a region title. That is definitely true in the 12th Region as Pulaski County cut down the nets last year for the first time since 1992. However, now that the Maroons have that crown they are not going to give it up this year without a fight. Can the Maroons repeat as 12th Region Champions? Not if Mercer County, Boyle County, Wayne County, or any of the other 12th Region teams have anything to say about it. Only time will tell who comes out on top, but one thing is certain it is going to be a battle to come out of the 12th Region this season.

12th Region Preseason Rankings:

1) Pulaski County Maroons - The Maroons once again top the 12th Region Preseason Rankings, but they sit atop by a razor thin margin. The Maroons will need to offset approximately 38% of their offense that they lost to graduation and replace an interior game if they plan to repeat as champions. However, do not fret too much because they do return one of the top players in the state in senior Steven Fitzgerald. Steven is a high jumping, prolific scorer who averaged over 25 points and 9 rebounds per game last year for the Maroons. Senior Danny Butt also returns and brings his court awareness and leadership that was so valuable for the Maroons last season. Add in senior Hagan Elmore and sophomore Colton Fraley and you have a team capable of cutting down the nets come March.
The Maroons will play one of the toughest schedules in the 12th Region this season as they open with Louisville Trinity, play Lexington Catholic, Pleasure Ridge Park, George Rogers Clark, Bryan Station, along with other strong regional opponents.

2) Mercer County Titans - The Titans should once again be in the hunt for the 12th Region title this season. Last season they were 12th Region Runner-Up. The season before Mercer County was 12th Region Champions. And, leading the way in both of the last two seasons is Mister Everything Trevon Faulkner returning for his final season as a Titan. Trevon average 24.2 points per game and brought down almost 12 rebounds per game last season as a junior. But, he will need help if the Titans want to make a trip to Rupp Arena this season. Fellow senior Gunnar Gillis is hoping to do his part to bring a 12th Region title back to Mercer County. He averaged 10.4 points per game and right at 8 rebounds per game last season. The Titans will also have a new but familiar face at the helm as they hired Josh Hamlin to take over head coaching duties.
Mercer County opens the season hosting Shelby County and play a challenging out of region schedule versus the likes of Perry County Central, Adair County, and Knox Central. They also will be playing in the King of the Bluegrass over Christmas.

3) Boyle County Rebels - Although the Rebels come in as the #3 team in the preseason poll, do not be surprised if they are on top by March. Boyle County returns basically their whole team from last year that lost in the final four of the 12th Region Tournament. Also, the seniors know what it takes to be a champion because they were apart of the Rebels state run three years ago and would love to finish their high school careers back in Rupp Arena. The Rebels are led by senior Bryce Slone. Bryce averaged 18 points per game while shooting close to 40% from the 3-point arch last season. Senior point guard Jason Alexander and Sophomore Reese Smith also return and bring their double digit scoring back for the Rebels.
Boyle County does not shy away on their schedule this season as they play Taylor County, North Hardin, Clay County, Oldham County, and Covington Catholic to name a few. The Rebels open the season versus Bryan Station.

4) Wayne County Cardinals - When you think of 12th Region perennial powers, the first name that comes to mind of most basketball enthusiast is the Wayne County Cardinals. There is a reason for that and his name is Coach Rodney Woods. Over his 31 years at Wayne County, they have won the region nine times and played in the 12th Region Tournament in all but 3 of the 31 seasons he has coached. Could title #10 be in the future this season? Only time will tell but Wayne Co. is once again poised to be a threat in the 12th Region this year. They lost one starter to graduation but return seniors Jakson Baker, Aubry Weaver, Stetson Simpson, and Clay Shelton. sophomore Kameron Gehring should round out the starting five. Wayne Co. also had a very strong JV team last year so they will have some size and depth. The Cardinals are a team capable of cutting down the nets come March.
Wayne County will open with Pickett County, TN and play in the Arby’s Classic and Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic over the Christmas break.

5) Somerset Briar Jumpers - It has been over four years since Somerset was competitive in the 12th Region but this looks to be a strong group of Jumpers capable of making some noise this season. New head coach Jeron Dunbar takes over with hopes of pushing the Jumpers to reach their highest capabilities. This Jumper team is full of senior leadership (seven to be exact) on a team that only graduated one player. They will be an athletic team with three players already committed to D1 programs in other sports with 2-3 others being recruited for the next level. They will also be a big team with a strong inside game. Trae Harmon and Kross Grundy are returning for their senior season. Freshman Kade Grundy made a big impact last season as an 8th grader and looks to return to the lineup once he heals from a broken finger sustained in football. Somerset could be the dark horse of the 12th Region. If you over look the Jumpers this season there is a chance you will get burned.
Somerset will host Estill County to start the season. The Jumpers are also scheduled to play Anderson County and Knox Central this season along with a competitive 12th Region schedule. Over the Christmas holiday the Jumper will play in the Arby’s/KFC Holiday Classic and the Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic.

6) Southwestern Warriors - Last year the Warriors were the 48th District champions but lost in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament. They were a high scoring team averaging just shy of 90 points per game. This year though the Warriors will need new faces to fill in the gaps since they lost 67% of their offensive productivity to graduation. The Warriors will look to seniors Hunter Stevens, Logan Dykes, Jonathan Gallagher, and Matthew Jones to keep the winning tradition alive and well at Southwestern. Hunter Stevens is the top returning scorer who averaged 11.8 points per game last season for the Warriors.
Southwestern starts the season off playing at Central Hardin. They play a challenging 12th Region schedule and play University Heights after the New Year.

7) West Jessamine Colts – The Colts find themselves in a rebuilding year after graduating a slew of seniors last year. With only 35% of the team’s offensive productivity returning, West Jessamine will need some new faces to fill in the graduation void. But, a Damon Kelley team doesn’t take long to find their stride and compete in the 12th Region. Returning junior Dalton Bruner brings a 14.0 points per game average back for the Colts. Senior transfer Drew Cook is a new addition for the Colts. He was the point guard and leading scorer for East Jessamine last season bringing a 16.2 point per game average to West Jessamine. It may not be an easy task, but West Jessamine would like to keep their streak alive with a seventh straight 12th Region appearance come March.
West Jessamine travels to Tates Creek to open their season. They seem to always play a tough schedule and this year is no exception with Lexington Catholic, Louisville Manual, and other challenging opponents on their slate.

8) Danville Admirals - It has been since 2011 that Danville played in the 12th Region Tournament but this season could be a great opportunity to change that stat. The Admirals return all five starters from last season and look to challenge the perennial powers in the 45th District. The Admirals return leading scorer senior Jared Southerland who averaged almost 16 points per game last season. Add seniors Zach Thorton, Tanner Ford, David Walker, and junior DeShaud St Martin and you have an experienced team ready to compete. The Admirals have also been the 12th Region Class A Champions for three straight years and would love to keep that streak going for another year.
Danville will open their season at home hosting Mercer County. They will also be playing in the Graviss McDonald’s Woodford County Invitational and the Campbellsville High School Holiday Classic over the holidays.

9) McCreary Central Raiders - It has been a few year since the Raiders made it out of the 48th District. With Wayne County and Southwestern in their district, it takes a pretty good team to overcome one of those obstacles. Could this be the year McCreary Central moves out of the 48th District shadows? Well, the fans in Whitley City sure think so. The Raiders return all but one player from last year’s team. They will utilize the experience from seniors Hunter Jones, Ryan Jones, Devin Strunk, and Brandon Troxell to lead the way. Hunter Jones is the leading returning scorer for the raiders averaging 15.1 points per game last season. With this wealth of senior experience, the Raiders will be a team everyone should keep an eye on this season.
The Raiders will travel to Rockcastle County to open the season. They will also be hosting the KFC/Arby’s Holiday Classic over the Christmas break.

10) Garrard County Golden Lions – It has been awhile since the Golden Lions have had a team in the top ten of the 12th Region Pre-Season Rankings, but Garrard County will be an improved team this season and could be a surprise in the 45th District. They only lost two players due to graduation and return the necessary experience needed to be competitive. The Golden Lions will rely on a group of seniors in Dalton Sebastian, Justin Preston, Carter Moss, and Trevor Jones to lead them in a promising season.
Garrard County will open their season at home hosting North Laurel.

11) Lincoln County Patriots - One thing I have learned in 12th Region basketball is you never count out Lincoln County. They always seem to be in the conversation. They will be rebuilding this year after losing some talent to graduation but come tournament time they will be a team no one wants to face. Phillip Chase is their highest scoring returning starter who averaged 8.9 points per game last season. They may take some lumps early on but expect them to improve as the season moves forward and challenge all teams they face.
The Patriots open the season on the road at Lafayette.

12) East Jessamine Jaguars – The Jaguars will be an improved team this season and could find themselves moving into the top ten of the 12th Region as the season progresses. It was not so much graduation but the Jaguars lost some kids who transferred that will be tough to replace. Their goal this season though is to once again be competitive in the 46th District and return to the 12th Region Tournament.
East Jessamine opens the season on the road at Sayre.

13) Casey County Rebels – The Rebels graduated a very good class last season and will find themselves trying to rebuild around a new group of kids. Junior Maximo Reyes is the leading returning scorer for Casey County. He averaged 14 points per game last season.
The Rebels open the season at home hosting Clinton County.

14) Rockcastle County Rockets – The Rockets lost more to graduation than any other team in the 12th Region so it goes without saying they will be looking to rebuild this season. Rockcastle will be looking to replace approximately 95% of their offense so it may take some time to find their identity but their goal is to be competitive come March.
Rockcastle County will open the season hosting McCreary Central.

15) Burgin Bulldogs - The Bulldogs will be young this season but that will not stop them from playing hard against stronger opponents. They open the season on the road at Trimble County. They will be looking forward to playing in the 12th region All A Classic with hopes of competing in the championship game this season.

16) Kentucky School f/t Deaf Colonels – The Colonels will be opening their season on the road at Riverside Christian. They will once again be traveling across the United States representing the Bluegrass in many tournament this season. The best of luck to the Colonels this season.

12th Region Top 10 Players:

1) Travon Faulkner (Mercer County) Senior - In a class of very talented players, Travon tops the list as the best in the 12th Region. Not only is he one of the best in the region, but also one of the best in the state. The talented senior guard is a very good shooter but can take you off the dribble. He is not only a scorer, but also a solid defender and rebounder. He finished last season averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. He is the most versatile player in the region.

2) Steven Fitzgerald (Pulaski County) Senior - Another very talented senior in the state of Kentucky who has signed to play division 1 basketball at Samford University. Steven is a very strong player who can finish well above the rim. Attacking the basket is what he does best but he can also shoot the three and post defenders up inside. He is a very difficult player to defend.

3) Jakson Baker (Wayne County) Senior – Jakson has been a four-year starter for Wayne County and is a strong presents in the paint. Last year he averaged a double-double with 17.0 points per game and 10.5 rebounds for the Cardinals. He will be the leader for a Cardinal team that has aspirations of cutting down the nets at seasons end.

4) Bryce Slone (Boyle County) Senior – Bryce is a talented shooting guard on a very good backcourt for the Rebels this season. As last year’s leading scorer for the Rebels, he averaged just shy of 19 points per game while shooting over 47% from the field.

5) Danny Butt (Pulaski County) Senior – Danny is a strong guard with range that can take the defender off the dribble or post them up inside. He averaged 10 points per game last season but he will be looked to for more responsibility this season. He sees the floor well and leads the Maroons in transition quite often.

6) Gunnar Gillis (Mercer County) Senior – Gunnar is a talented player for the Titans that averaged double digits in scoring and over eight rebounds per game last season. He will be looked to for leadership and athleticism on a team capable of returning to Rupp Arena.

7) Jason Alexander (Boyle County) Senior – As a talented point guard for the Rebels, Jason controls the tempo and averaged 13 points per game last season. Jason handles pressure well and has exquisite vision of the floor. With Baby J leading the team, the rebels look to be in good shape for a deep run come postseason.

8) Jared Southerland (Danville) Senior – Jared is a very good shooting guard for the Admirals that led the team in scoring last season with almost 16 points per game. He would love to end his career by leading the Admirals to the 12th Region Tournament.

9) Trae Harmon (Somerset) Senior – Trae is a very strong inside the paint player for the Jumpers. He is not only a good player in basketball, but also an outstanding baseball player. He has already signed with the University of Kentucky to play on the diamond.

10) Hunter Jones (McCreary Central) Senior – Last season Hunter averaged over 15 points per game for the Raiders.

10) Aubry Weaver (Wayne County) Senior – Aubry is a versatile guard that scores in many ways for the Cardinals. He averaged over 13 points per game last season.