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#1 Lincoln County – Coach Jeff Jackson’s Patriots come into the 2019/2020 season as reigning regional champion and all expectations are that they will be right in the thick of things again looking for another trip to the Sweet Sixteen. Many players return from last year’s 23-13 team, including seniors Elijah Frye and Riley Bodner. However, the Patriots will rely on sophomore Jaxon Smith to improve on his incredible freshman season where he averaged 12.3 points per game and averaged over 40% from three point range. This Lincoln County group has a lot going for it through a combination of stellar coaching, experience, chemistry, and talent.

#2 Pulaski County – The Maroons are coming off a 20-12 campaign that featured a 72-70 overtime win over Rockcastle County to make the regional tournament. They find themselves this year as one of two teams in the 47th District poised to make a serious run at the regional title. Pulaski is led by four year starter Colton Fraley. Grant Oakes and Garrett Heath are both looking for breakout years, making them an incredibly difficult team to defend given their three primary scoring threats. KJ Combs, Zach Travis, and Caleb Sloan will be in the rotation as well, adding quickness and depth.

#3 Somerset – The other regional contender from the 47th District, Coach Jeron Dunbar’s Briar Jumpers have been building towards this year for some time. Kade Grundy leads a veteran group that will pay fast and will look to cause chaos on defense. On top of being an overall regional contender, Somerset has their eyes on a run at the All A State title. An offseason of hard work, strength building, and individual improvement have Somerset ready to make a lot of noise.

#4 Danville – The Admirals boasted the 12th Region’s best record last year at 29-6, losing the title game in both the district and region to Lincoln County. Dante Hayden and Darrian Bell should lead the effort this year. Hayden averaged 12.4 points per game last year and Bell finished with 8.7 points per game. They will need to find rebounders, as both leading men on the boards, DeShaud St. Martin and Zach Thornton, have graduated. Ethan Wood may very well fill that role.

#5 Southwestern - Brayden Sims (13 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game last year) and Cole Dysinger (16 points per game last year) lead a talented senior class – 9 total, 5 of them starters on last year’s Warriors squad. The post position will be anchored by Cameron Pierce inside with Jon Wood and Luke Jacobs providing relief. The starting backcourt is rounded out by point guard Hunter Coffey and shooter Andrew Smith.

#6 Wayne County – Thomas Spencer and Kameron Gehring look to fill the hole left by four graduating seniors with the help of Bryon Tucker, Chandler Humble, Reese Sexton, freshman Mason Burchett, and football player Brody Weaver. Wayne lacks size and some of the athleticism expected from Coach Woods’ teams, but the electricity brought from Spencer and Gehring should allow them to threaten a run deep into the regional.

#7 Boyle County – Some mystery and intrigue surrounds Boyle County basketball this year. Coach Steve Adams has retired and longtime assistant Dennie Webb has assumed the reigns. Questions on whether Reese Smith will show up on the hardwood or enroll early at West Virginia for football have circled this offseason. If Smith does not play, and with Will Imfeld graduated, the Rebels will be led by sophomore Luke Imfeld. Luke finished second in scoring on the team last year with 12.1 points per game behind Smith’s 19.2.

#8 Mercer County - What Mercer lacks in star power (though Kaelin Drakeford has an opportunity to change that opinion), they make up with in overall depth, ball handling, shooting, and quickness. Coach Hamlin will look to call on several different players to step up and compete in what should be an incredible competitive district. A good mix of veteran leadership and rising newcomers may mean a track of steady improvement throughout the year.

#9 West Jessamine - The Colts lost a lot but return 6’3 point guard DeAjuan Stepp (14.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game, and 3 assists per game last year). Though Coach Damon Kelley will be looking to develop depth, size is plentiful as the Colts feature 6’4 forward Clayton Winter, 6’4 forward Nate Breeden, and 6’4 forward Gavin Salva. West will be competing with district rivals East Jessamine and Mercer County for a regional berth.

#10 Garrard County - Lurking behind regional contenders Lincoln County and Danville in the 45th district, Garrard County has a group led by preseason #1 player Brayden Sebastian. (6’5 SR PG, 27PPG, 11 RPG) Sebastian will lead a backcourt that may very well be the deepest and most skilled in Garrard history. The biggest obstacle facing Garrard may be the inside game. They will have to limit turnovers, have an excellent perimeter game, and keep their backcourt healthy and efficient. If they check all these boxes, they may very well find themselves in the regional tournament.

#11 East Jessamine – East will be fighting for a regional berth from an incredibly competitive district. Three starters (Ben McNew, Zion Thomas, Cam Thompson) return, boasting a level of experience that last year’s Jaguars did not have.

#12 Rockcastle County – Sophmore guard Daniel Mullins, senior point guard Logan Noel, and senior guard lead a Rockets group that returns a solid backcourt. However, rebounds may be at a premium with the graduation of Isaac Stratton.

#13 Casey County – The Rebels of Casey County will be missing the points provided by graduated Maximo Reyes, but Spencer Baird and Micah Pendleton have a chance to fill that void.

#14 McCreary Central – McCreary starts the year without senior point guard Blake Corder, who is shooting for a midseason returning following summer knee surgery. Senior Alex Heath will lead the effort until his return, captaining a hardworking group based around shooting and guard play.

#15 Burgin –The Bulldogs are now led by veteran coach Troy Lee Thomas and hope to continue to develop their young core of players, though they do find experience in the form of senior Wesley Tyler.

#16 Kentucky School for the Deaf – Coach Mike Yance’s group will open their season on December 3rd against the home school team L.I.G.H.T. out of Danville, propelling them into the KSD Kickoff Classic on the 6th.

Top Ten Players

#1 Brayden Sebastian (Garrard County) – The 6’5 senior point guard averaged 27 points per game last year along with 11 rebounds per game, shooting 51% from the field overall. Adding ten to fifteen pounds of muscle in the offseason, Sebastian looks to build off his monster campaign last year. This young man can do it all, including shooting the three pointer, rebounding, handling the ball, and being a menacing defender. The hope is that Garrard’s now deeper backcourt will allow for some pressure to be drawn off of him so that his production may only increase.

#2 Kade Grundy (Somerset) – Grundy averaged 19.1 points per game last year, including an average of 2 made three pointers per game. The junior guard has a high ceiling and will be an integral part of Somerset’s success this year. His breakout game last year came early as he dropped 19 points in a double overtime loss to eventual regional champion Lincoln County, their only meeting of the season. Grundy will hope to increase his numbers from that game to flip the result when Somerset travels to Lincoln County on December 7th.

#3 Thomas Spencer (Wayne County) – Senior Thomas Spencer averaged 17.5 points per game last year along with 6.6 rebounds per game and nearly 2 steals per game. A combination of skill, size, and awareness, Spencer is one of the most versatile scoring threats in the region as well as a defensive star.

#4 Jaxon Smith (Lincoln County) – Smith is one of two players returning for the regional champion Patriots who averaged over 10 points per game last year (12.3) while leading the team in three point percentage (42.5%) and contributing 3 rebounds per game. After being an integral part of Lincoln’s regional title as a freshman, Smith has a bright future and 3 more chances to get his team back to the Sweet Sixteen.

#5 Colton Fraley (Pulaski County) – Pulaski’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game last year, the senior guard and four year starter has one more chance to get the Maroons back to the state tournament after a year’s absence. Fraley was an integral part of the 2017 regional championship team and for Pulaski to make it back, they will need another fantastic year from their leader on the court.

#6 Dante Hayden (Danville) – The junior guard returns as the Ads’ leading scorer from last season, averaging over 12 points per game. His presence on both sides of the ball was integral to Danville’s success last year and that will only increase with this year’s campaign.

#7 DeAjuan Stepp (West Jessamine) – The versatile 6’3 junior point guard averaged 14.6 points per game last year as well as 7.1 rebounds per game and 3 assists per game. Coach Kelley will ask him to be this year’s Colts squad’s leader off & on the court.

#8 Brayden Sims (Southwestern) – Sims average 13 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game last year. He has shown continued improvement throughout the offseason and will only continue to improve during his senior season.

#9 Elijah Frye (Lincoln County) – The other double digit scorer returning for Lincoln County, Frye will be asked to not only be productive on his own, but to draw pressure off of Jaxon Smith.

#10 Grant Oaks (Pulaski County) – The senior forward averaged 13.7 points per game last year as well as 8.7 rebounds per game. He will anchor the Maroons’ inside game.

*Special Note – The top ten teams and top ten players were voted on by the coaches of the 12th region. 10 out of the 16 participated. Reese Smith received the votes to be 6th in the top ten players list. I have omitted him from the list at this time as it is believed he will not be playing basketball and will focus on his upcoming stint as a member of the West Virginia University football team.

Ten Storylines to Follow

1) Boyle County may or may not have Reese Smith on the hardwood (things aren’t looking good that he will be there). Can Boyle County achieve success without Smith and possibly Grant Hotchkiss?

2) Jaxon Smith and Lincoln County achieved a great amount last year and have attracted a lot of attention. Can they handle the pressure of being the preseason favorite?

3) The 46th District features three teams that seem to be incredibly equal in Mercer County, West Jessamine, and East Jessamine. Will East be able to fight their way back into the regional tournament? If so, which of the others does not make it?

4) The 47th District features two teams in the top 3 in the region. Can both Pulaski and Somerset live up to expectations and give the 47th two legitimate chances at winning a regional title?

5) Danville and Lincoln split their series last year, 2 wins each. However, Lincoln won the two that mattered – the district and regional championship games. Will either team declare a dominance over the other this year?

6) Speaking of the 45th District, can the number one player in the region, Brayden Sebastian, help Garrard County overtake Danville and/or Lincoln County?

7) McCreary Central finished the year with less than 10 wins, but one of those was in the district semifinals over Southwestern. Due to the district being made up of only 3 teams, the #1 seed gets a bye and a guaranteed regional berth. Can Wayne County retain that spot? Or will Southwestern or McCreary Central supplant them as the leader in the 48th District?

8) Will Somerset be a threat to win both the All A State and the overall regional championship?

9) Will Burgin repeat with a 20 win season under new head coach Troy Lee Thomas?

10) Numerous players received top ten votes – which player outside the top ten list will have the greatest impact?

Ten Games of Note

December 3rd – McCreary County Central at Rockcastle County – These two teams promise a very entertaining game right out of the gate as both try to prove themselves in game one of the season in what appears to be a very even matchup.

December 7th – Somerset at Lincoln County – If Somerset wants to prove they have what it takes to win a regional championship, this game would be as good of a chance as any.

December 10th – Lincoln County at Wayne County – The last time these two teams met they produced a five overtime thriller.

December 13th – East Jessamine at Garrard County – This game features two teams fighting for recognition, both seemingly the third best teams in their respective districts. This will be an excellent measuring post for both (and a great chance to see what Brayden Sebastian can do).

December 20th – West Jessamine at Mercer County - Right before holiday tournaments roll around these two district foes will play and we will get to know a little more about the status of the 46th District.

January 7th – Boyle County at Danville – Enough time should have passed that everyone coming out from football is now on the basketball court. What will that mean for this crosstown rivalry?

January 14th – Lincoln County at Pulaski County – preseason 1 and 2. There is certainly a chance this could be a preview of the regional championship.

January 17th – All A Regional Championship game – In what will most likely be Danville versus Somerset, one team will emerge to represent the region with an excellent chance at making some serious noise in the state All A tournament.

February 4th – Wayne County at Casey County – With both teams possibly reaching peak form, can Casey pull off the upset heading into the offseason against Thomas Spencer and the Cardinals?

February 14th – Southwestern at Pulaski County – Southwestern travels through the city to face district rival Pulaski County as the districts quickly approach.