By JUSTIN RAINS
The local boys’ basketball season ended the 2011-2012 season much like it had the one before, with Grapeland falling to Clarksville and Cayuga getting shocked by Tenaha.
But, 2011-2012 also saw plenty of good, including the seasons as a whole both the Sandies and Wildcats put together.
Westwood made the playoffs for the first time in almost two decades, while Slocum made a run to the regional quarterfinals. Oakwood and Frankston were also both playoff teams.
All of those teams will try once again to make the postseason, while Palestine, Elkhart and Neches will try and join them.
Below is a preview of the area’s boys’ basketball teams heading into the 2012-2013 season, with last year’s record in parentheses when available.
PALESTINE WILDCATS (6-22)
Palestine was a young team a year ago, and it showed both in the team’s final record and in the Wildcats inconsistent play on the court.
That should change this season, with more experience in the backcourt and a more athletic presence down-low with the emergence of sophomore Dakedrick McMorris and transfer Ben Luckett to help leading returner Shumauri Scott (10 points, 6 rebounds per game last season).
The backcourt duties will be headed by sophomore Gee Clark, who played plenty of point guard during his freshman year as well. He’ll get help from wing players Tony Butler, Izien Isemede, Vay Davis and Sheldon Watson.
Also, don’t discount the experience Clark can gain by leading the Wildcat football team this season.
SEASON OPENER: 5 p.m. Nov. 27 vs. Kerens
WESTWOOD PANTHERS (26-8)
The Westwood boys’ basketball team snapped its long playoff drought last year, before losing a heartbreaker in the bi-district round to Waco Connally.
Pieces are in place for Westwood to again be playoff-bound, though they’ll have to find 19 points per game to replace the loss of leading scorer Courtney Anderson.
But, WHS coach Scott Nettles’ team returns with three three-year letterman in point guard L.J. Hutchison (led team in assists, steals), wing-man Chris Thompson (2nd team all-district) and post Dra Ross (1st team all-district).
The Panthers also return sixth-man J.J. Turner, but will have six to seven players with little to no varsity experience that will have to learn on the fly.
They’ve also been put in a tough district, and will have to compete with non-football schools Central Heights and Woden, along with perennial power Crockett.
SEASON OPENER: 5 p.m. Nov. 19 vs. Centerville
ELKHART ELKS (13-13)
Joining Westwood in the new-look District 19-2A is Elkhart, a .500 team from a year ago but one that returns loads of firepower for 2012.
In his top returners, EHS coach Ryan Blackmon brings back 44 points per game, led by junior Jeffrey Wilson, who averaged 16 points and nine rebounds per contest last season.
Sharp-shooters Jacob Cheatham (13 points per game) and Cole Bridges (10 points per game) also return for their senior season, as does Luke Hollingsworth.
While the team’s outside shooting will be strong, Blackmon said the team will need to find a post game to be successful.
SEASON OPENER: Nov. 15 in Slocum tournament (time TBA)
CAYUGA WILDCATS (35-6)
When we last saw them, the Cayuga Wildcats were being upset by Tenaha in the regional semifinals for the second-straight season.
CHS coach Greg Jenkins doesn’t want to see that happen again, and neither do his players.
The goal at Cayuga — ranked No. 2 in Class 1A, DI by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) in its preseason poll — is a return to the state tournament, and behind University of Hartford-commit Preston Anderson, they have a chance.
The reigning Dogwood Circle Player of the Year averaged 24.4 points per game a year ago in his breakout season.
Cayuga also returns big-man Deon Schofner (12 points, 9 rebounds per game), who will be even more emphasized because of the loss of fellow big man Zac Bowman.
Jenkins also said he thinks his teams depth will be a positive factor as the season goes along.
SEASON OPENER: TBD (depends on football team’s playoff run)
NECHES TIGERS (13-18)
The Neches boys’ basketball team is making the jump up to Class 1A, Division I in 2012-2013, finding a home in District 21-A, DI, away from local powers Cayuga, Grapeland and Slocum.
Ben Lassiter’s club will be led by Devin Kanetzky (12 points, 9 rebounds per game last year), who finished second on the team in scoring last season behind the now-departed Brandon Barrett.
Jake Sparkman and Austin Willingham will also play big roles, as Neches relies on fundamentals and post play as they try for a playoff spot.
SEASON OPENER: 5 p.m. Tuesday vs. Eustace
OAKWOOD PANTHERS (18-9)
The Oakwood boys’ basketball team, an area finalist a year ago, comes into 2012-2013 loaded with talent, returning six players from last year’s squad and all five starters.
Led by all-region performers Damiiyne Durham (23.6 points, 10 rebounds per game) and Jacquez Anderson (14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds per game), the Panthers — preseason no. 11 in 1A, DII — will hope to build on last year’s success, despite being paired in a district with perennial powers like Douglass (No. 2) and Laneville (No. 6).
Returning along with Durham and Anderson are seniors Bryson Randle (7.7 points per game) and Shaquille Caldwell (7.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.7 blocks per game).
SEASON OPENER: 6 p.m. Nov. 27 vs. Cross Roads
Editor’s Note: Emails for information sent to Frankston, Grapeland and Slocum were not returned at press time
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com