Raiders ramping up for season
Although returning four starters from last year’s 12-15 team, the Raiders are still looking for someone to fill the shoes of the team’s leading scorer from last year.
Kyle Tucker, who graduated at the end of the last school year, led the team with 12.5 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game, was a major part of the McCreary offense, and the Raiders need players to step up and share the burden of putting points on the board.
As a Freshman, Hunter Jones was second behind Tucker in scoring, averaging 12.3 points per game, but no other player on the roster at the end of the season averaged more than 7 points per game, and he looks to be ready to carry a lot of the weight, but Coach Robert Jones is hoping that all five players on the floor at any time will take charge and put points on the board.
“We have a lot of returning players who gained a lot of varsity experience last year,” Coach Jones said. “Now we need them to step up and take leadership of this team. We have a lot of sophomores who are going to be called on to make big contributions.”
“Overall we are still young, and we can’t rely on just one player to carry the bulk of our offense,” he said. “Having someone average 20 points per game is great, but if something happens to that player, what do you do? If I have five guys averaging over 10 per game, and a bench that can contribute as well – I’d be happy with that.”
The Raiders will have a month to develop before facing their first important test of the season: the start of District play.
Opening up on the road, two of the Raiders first games are against opponents who went 1-5 against McCreary last season.
Their first three games are in Barbourville, Thursday against Oneida Baptist Institute, Friday against Middlesboro and Saturday versus the hosting Tigers.
McCreary played OBI three times last season, defeating the Mountaineers in two meetings. The Raiders also knocked off Middlesboro in all three matchups over the course of last year.
The Raiders host Pulaski County on Tuesday, December 8 and Danville the following Friday. From there they travel to Burgin on Monday, December 14 and Somerset on the following Friday.
Starting December 19 the Raiders will host the annual Arby’s/KFC Holiday tournament, with participating teams yet to be announced.
Following the holiday break McCreary gets into the heart of the schedule with back-to-back District games. The Raiders host Southwestern on January 7, and defending District Champions Wayne County on the 12th.
McCreary did not win a District game last year, but Coach Jones acknowledges it is one of the toughest Districts in the Region.
“When you have only a three-team district, and two of those teams are in the top five in the whole region, it’s a tough challenge,” he said.
The Cardinals return four starters and two of their top scorers from last year’s squad: Trey Blevins and Corey Stearns, making them an early favorite in the District. Southwestern was harder hit by graduation, but also are bringing back two of their top playmakers in Peyton Gover and Steven Fitzgerald this season.
Both Wayne County and Southwestern are considered two of the top three teams in the 12th Region.