Prep Basketball A look at area basketball teams for the 2017-18 season | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Basketball

A look at area basketball teams for the 2017-18 season

West Point PG Rylan Jones attacked the John Carroll defense in a play day game at Falkville June 23. West Point won 61-44. / Johnny Thornton


Editor's note: This is the first of a 2-part series by Tribune Sports Editor Johnny Thornton from his coverage of high school basketball play days during the month of June.

CULLMAN COUNTY - Prep basketball teams across the area spent June 1-June 24 fine-tuning their squads for the 2017-18 season.

During the month of June, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) allows basketball teams the opportunity to get in serious work in a segment called play days (known also as team camps). Teams are given a three-week period with an unlimited number of games to determine where they stand when the new season officially begins in early November.

The Tribune was on hand for seven days in a three-week period, analyzing the varsity squads for the upcoming year. Each school is going through the regular process of having to fill vacancies and welcoming back personnel. Optimism is high in the summer for a successful fall and winter.

COLD SPRINGS - The Eagles will have to replace PG Jesse Lee, WF Blake Hood and PF Eli Hamby from last year's 2A, Area 13 title team. C Hunter McClendon and G Mason Harris are the lone returnees for the Eagles for 2017-18. McClendon will be asked to provide a scoring punch inside while Harris has speed from the wing guard position and will look to score by driving to the basket or stepping out and hitting from the perimeter.

The squad will be young and will have to gain game-time experience immediately, but will do so from the hard work and good teaching by head coach Tim Willoughby.

CULLMAN - PG Jayden Sullins will be a sophomore and will be more mature and improve his role of running the floor. Sullins was good in the summer in setting up his offense and cutting down on unforced mistakes.

C Dylan Finch gives the Bearcats ability to score in and away from the basket. Getting consistency from the perimeter by Noah Bussman and Trey Tucker and others adapting to Bobby Meyer's structure, Cullman will display a competitive unit, looking to increase total of wins and reduce the number of defeats from the previous season.

FAIRVIEW - The Aggies are waiting to see what will develop in the hiring of a new coach. Branch Whitlock ran the team in the summer.

The Aggies are experienced in guard play and up front with the likes of Grant Howard, Bryson Fletcher and Truman Boyd. Luke Yarbrough missed some time in the summer from an injury but is experienced as a ball handler and a scorer.

If Whitlock gets the job, his style is similar to Cullman's as he has been associated with Bobby Meyer's staff for several seasons, playing team and controlled offense.

GOOD HOPE - Second-year coach Drew Adams will have experience and newcomers that had success a season ago winning the Cullman County JV championship. C Kallen Sharpton returns after being one of the squad's top scorers last year.

Depth is provided by Isaac McDonald, Mason Moniz and Matt Hancock at guards, Isaiah Lemus in the post. Expected to get quality playing time will be Drew Maddox, Cole Maddox and Landon Freeman as sophomore-oriented guards. The Maddox boys are cousins, with Freeman dividing time between the varsity and JV last season.

HANCEVILLE - The Class 3A, Area 13 regular season champions are ready to take it a step further. The Bulldogs will rely on the post play of R.J. Evans and Josh Stanley, plus steady guard play by Fred Ellis, Alex Campbell and Brendan Flanigan.

Flanigan has a good touch from long range, Campbell hustles at all times and Ellis complements the wing position for coach Daniel Wakefield. Developing depth will be something the Bulldogs will work on for the entire new season.

HOLLY POND - The Broncos were the only squad not seen at play days by The Tribune. But we know the Broncos had success in a series of play days at UAH, Samford and Scottsboro.

Mitch Morris saw the bulk of his talent that led the Broncos to 32 wins and a Final Four berth in February graduate.

The cover is not completely bare, with Griffin Morris, Jake Harris, Zach Shaw, McKinley Garrett and Reid Hollis experienced from the guard, wing and in the post. Good hard-working personnel will move from the JV with the Broncos optimistic for more success following a season no one will not forget any time soon.

ST. BERNARD - All-Star guard Christian Peterson and postman Elijah Price anchor the leadership of the Saints. Greg Boatright will be looking for a third scorer and has a group of young men that battle hard when tip off begins.

Peterson produced 19 points a game last season and brings a variety of abilities into his senior season. The sharpshooter can cause headaches for opponents with his penetration skills, plus he has a good touch from the outside. Price will remind opponents there is more than one player wearing a St. Bernard uniform who is hard to slow down.

VINEMONT - The Eagles will be a young team determined to succeed. Coach Todd Johnson has a sharpshooter in his son, Ketch, who is left handed and loves the long-distance shot. Johnson had 17 points, hitting five treys in a play day last week with an athletic East Lawrence team.

Jack Hill, Clay Shipp, Adam Dunn, Carl Preiss and Conner Handley played hard for the Eagles in June, with Vinemont at times staying toe to toe with the opposition, before inconsistent scoring and turnovers hampered their cause.

WEST POINT - June was good for Randy Jones' team, especially the final week when the Warriors went 8-3 against AHSAA teams. They learned a lot playing tough foes like Hartselle, Decatur, Athens, Decatur Heritage and John Carroll last week.

Experience returns, but with people in different positions. Rylan Jones has gone to point guard, with Colby Sullins, Noah Allison, Kolton Sapp and Austin Dubberly being wing players with quickness and shooting potential. Sullins had several strong scoring performances from long range vs. Hartselle, Athens, Decatur Heritage and John Carroll.

Depth features big man Tyler Thompson, plus Dalton White, Cameron Bates, Noah Gammon, Skyler Bowers showing steady play, especially in the second half against John Carroll, protecting a double-digit lead.

With the opportunity to go deep into the bench and a chance to rest starters, West Point has its sights set on having an impact in the county and in 5A, Area 12, with the quest of being a playoff team once again well within their grasp.

FINAL ANALYSIS - Parity will be a part of county basketball. Each game that factors into seeding for the county tournament will be something worth following. Hard fought battles will be the storyline, seeing how the teams position themselves when the county tournament is held in late January.

Area play will be at high level too, with the county confident vs. out-of-county teams in the quest for a deep run into the postseason.

An analysis of girls’ basketball will be posted Wednesday at

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