By Logan Sewell
The Hornet boys' basketball season is being affected by the football team's success. The opening of the season is expected to be delayed until Dec. 17, so the first game will be at Waynesville.
Meanwhile, senior veterans Pat Harrington and Tad Kilburn may miss significant time while they recover from football injuries.
New coach Denny Ferguson still has to put his final roster together, and get football players blended into the team.
Here's a rundown on the Hornets:
A big concern for coach Ferguson will be the ability of his guards, senior Kilburn and sophomore Tyler Osterman, to quickly learn the uptempo offense that Ferguson employs. Kilburn and Osterman, who alternated at quarterback for the Hornets football team, will have a very short window to understand the offense, coming off a terrific season in football that drastically cut their basketball practice time before their first game under their new coach. Expect Kilburn to adjust seamlessly, as he is in his third year playing varsity basketball and has been the starting point guard most of that time. Osterman also shouldn't have that much trouble picking up the offense, since he will use his tremendous athleticism and quickness to his advantage.
"We are going to try to get it up and down the court," Ferguson said, "We have a quick team, and we will do a lot of run-and -gun action to pick up the tempo."
Osterman led the Hornets in scoring as a freshman last year, a feat not lost on Ferguson, who remembers the task of coming up with a way to at least slow down Osterman when he was head coach of Franklin last year.
"He beat us at the free throw line; he does a good job shooting and scoring," Ferguson said, "He's a good scorer and if you foul him, he's going to make free throws."
Monroe senior Michael Majors is the lone returning starter in the frontcourt from last year. The Hornets lost forward Jason Hunt and center Jeff Myers to graduation. Several players are in the running for the other starting positions. Junior Brian Roach will try to fill the void that Myers left as he is one of the tallest players in recent years to play basketball for Monroe at 6'7". Roach has around a 7-foot wingspan that he uses to block shots and to collect rebounds at a rapid pace. Sophomore Jared Ferguson, a transfer from Franklin and the head coach's son, should thrive at Monroe since he will know the new coach's offensive and defensive plays Plus the Hornets are loaded with experienced talent, while teams must concentrate on stopping Osterman and Majors. Majors will look to continue the success he enjoyed near the end of last season where he was the go-to guy for the Hornets as they closed the season on a strong run, beating Edgewood and Franklin, then Dixie in the tournament before losing in the last seconds to National Trail. Starting with the Edgewood game, when Majors experienced his first career triple double, he went on a tear, devouring opposing team's defenses.
"Expect Majors to put everything together and explode to become one of the better players around the MML," said Kilburn, a first cousin to Majors, "He has worked his tail off knowing that this is his final year in high school."
Like the football team, Monroe expects to compete for the MML South title for the first time in 11 years, in the league's final year of existence, and they have the personnel to do so. The players are hoping the football team's success carries over from the gridiron and onto the hardwood. For the first time in a while, Monroe is very deep and has several players with varsity experience such as Harrington, who's been playing varsity since his freshman year, and junior guards Josh Herron, Tyler Ott, and Tyler Williams. The Hornets will also have one of the more experienced coaching staffs in the MML. Ferguson is an MML veteran and has surrounded himself with top assistants.
"At every practice, we have three guys with head coaching experience, (assistants Tim Kellis and Chad Allen, both were head coaches, at Monroe and Madison respectively, last year) and we have another guy (in assistant Mark Osterman) that has several years of reserve and varsity assistant experience," said Ferguson. "I think the knowledge and what we get done will be a lot of fun with this coaching staff."
The expectation meter is on high for this senior-dominated team, as the Hornets could have six seniors on the varsity squad.
"We have three returning starters, underclassmen, and some good older players," Kilburn said, "The MML is always a tough basketball league; we have the ability and talent to compete, and we can beat anybody in the MML."