The North Lincoln Knights have already matched their season win total from last year with their 77-74 seasoning opening win versus West Lincoln.
Head coach David Johnson hopes that win will serve as a springboard to a season of success. The Knights have six returnees: Kenny Bethea, Alex Loftin, Trishtan Johnson, Miquan Smith, Kyle Baker and Peyton Brady.
Each player does not want to endure the type of 1-20 season they posted a year ago. While Johnson is in search of his teamâ€™s identity, he believes Bethea will be his leader.
â€œAs a new team getting started, weâ€™re still trying to find our leaders, but I expect Kenny to step into that role,â€ he said.
Two players who he believes could have a big impact on his team are forward Miquan Smith and guard Trishtan Johnson. The latter of which poured in 23 in his first game of his junior year.
â€œBoth of them have tremendously improved from the first day of practice. They have the potential to have a great impact on our team,â€ Johnson said.
The Knightsâ€™ starters are Loftin, Johnson, Smith, Bethea and Brady. While they will log the most minutes, Johnson feels he has quality depth coming off the bench.
â€œI see David Ward as he gets better, as well as Trey Whiteside to make a difference off the bench. Lesharion will add a lot of speed and athleticism especially with us playing up tempo.â€
Loftin adds a quality ballhandler and perimeter shooter to the team. His outside shooting already has made a big impact with a momentum-changing three against the Rebels.
â€œAlex has also shown a lot of leadership, helped direct the plays and adds some offensive outside shooting,â€ Johnson said.
TJ Skidmore and Trent Hopkins could see some varsity time as the season progresses.
Since the Knights donâ€™t have a particularly big team, they will rely more on speed and quickness. The coach feels they have both.
â€œWe donâ€™t have a lot of height, but weâ€™re very athletic and versatile. Weâ€™re going to have to take advantage of our speed and athleticism, instead of just shooting ability and height,â€ he said.
Winning the first game of the season was big especially as far as their attitude Johnson said.
â€œFirst off, with us trying to teach the boys a new style of play to win their first game was a huge momentum builder. They came off very positive and confident.â€
Itâ€™s not only a learning curve for the team, but for Johnson as well after leaving Lincolntonâ€™s women program for North. How has that adjustment gone?
â€œI think itâ€™s gone well. We expect a lot of the kids. Weâ€™re working hard on our team work, but overall theyâ€™ve listened well and done what Iâ€™ve asked of them. Within the first two weeks, Iâ€™ve seen improvement already.â€
by John Mark Brooks