It’s been a successful summer for the Pineville Mountain Lion basketball team so far.
Off-season ball is not so much about wins and losses, but the Lions have shown an ability to play with just about everybody they’ve gone up against. Even though they’re coming off a 10-19 season, that shouldn’t’ be too much of a surprise as Pineville will be returning several players that saw varsity action last year including three starters and three others that played significant minutes off the bench.
“We’ve got a lot of positives. These kids all seem to like each other and they play hard. They like to play and they want to be successful, they really want to do well,” Lion coach J.D. Strange said. “You have to be willing to put in the time to be successful and I think our kids will.”
Pineville graduated three senior forwards from last year: Conner Ford, John Robbins and Dalton Ledbetter.
“We lost three seniors from last year and every team, every year kind of has it’s own identity. We’ve just got to find ourselves and figure out what our strengths are,” Strange said “Any team needs to rebound and defend and those are things we’ll have to get better at. I think we have the potential to be a strong shooting team.”
The Lions will open next season with three seniors on the roster and all three finished last year as starters. Guards Cody Collett and Isaac Longworth and forward Scotty Hoskins.
Collett led the team by averaging about 16 points per game with Longworth and Hoskins the next two top returning scorers at 6.5 and 7.3 points per game, respectively.
“Cody has been playing since his freshman days so he’s a veteran for us who gets a lot done. We know what he can do and his leadership on the floor is instrumental and invaluable for us,” Strange added. “Isaac has been playing since he was a freshman as well. He can shoot the ball, I’d like for him to shoot it more than he does, but he does a lot of good things with the ball. Scotty, hopefully he can stay healthy because he can have a big impact with his outside shooting and his ability on defense to alter some shots.”
Junior John Sporles and sophomore Will Adams were the first two forwards off the bench last season and have been running with the starters most of the summer. Another rising sophomore that played a lot off the bench last season is point guard Tucker Woolum.
“Those kids are growing up, they got their feet wet last year at the varsity level. By the end of last year they were contributing quite a bit and we’re hoping to see that carry over,” said Strange.
There continues to be competition for minutes off the bench with several players working to prove themselves before the start of the school year and football season for most of them.
“Will Adams and Tucker Woolum are going to be sophomores and they both play hard. John Sproles and Jalen Byrd can both shoot the ball. Thomas Brock is learning to be more aggressive. That’s eight guys right there (with the three seniors) and you can add in Joseph Simpson as a guy who is working really hard this summer to show what he can do,” Strange said.
The Mountain Lions will have to contend with a Knox Central team that returns all five starters in the 51st District while their other rival Barbourville graduated six seniors. Lynn Camp could be a darkhorse in the district with four starters coming back.