Second-year head Eagles basketball coach Grant Myrick is in search of players who can step in and put points on the board, after four starters graduated last season.
Huntsville will open the 2019-20 season at home on Nov. 14 against Siloam Springs. The game will benefit the Arkansas Activities Association.
The Eagles finished 18-11 overall and 9-2 in the 4A-1 Conference last season. They advanced from the District Tournament then lost in the first round of the Regional Tournament.
Huntsville must replace its main offensive threats from a year ago: post player Beau Whelchel and guard Sean McCone. Two other starters graduated, as well.
The lone starter who returns this year is senior forward Kent Mayes. Juniors Slayter Watkins and Hunter Davidson saw a lot of playing time last year. Watkins injured his left foot during a football game last week.
Seniors this year will include guard Devon McDaniel, Kyle Garrison, Kolton Shepherd, Mayes and Bryan Walden.
Juniors Kross Easterling and Layton Bennett should be factors, as well.
Another factor from the junior class will be added height compared to last year. Post player Chandan Villines (6-foot, 4-inches or 6-5) will play in the middle after an injury sidelined him a year ago.
A talented sophomore class is expected to contribute, including point guard Hayden Dotson, Matthew Sisk, Luke Eaton, Tucker Bradley, Kolton Reynolds and Braden Carter.
“We’re excited about that sophomore class,” he said. “Some of them are going to probably help contribute in varsity. We’re going to see what happens. It might be a different lineup every night, I don’t know. We’re just going to have to figure out what is best, but that’s good that we have options. I feel good about our team. I feel like we’ll be able to compete every game and have a chance.”
“Everything’s going good. I feel like we’ve gotten stronger, gotten in better shape,” Myrick said.
“We’ve got one returning starter so we’ve got a bunch of guys that are trying to fill spots. The competition’s been good, so I think that’s always good for a team to get better each day that there’s competition.”
Myrick added, “I’m ready to get some of our football guys back and get this basketball thing going.”
With Villines in the middle and Mayes at forward, the Eagles will be a bit taller than a year ago.
“Chandon’s about 6-5 right now, Kent’s about 6-2. I think we’ll be taller than we were last year,” he said.
Offense is a concern, Myrick said.
“A lot of our scoring has left. That’s something we’ve definitely talked about and been working on,” he said. “It’s time for guys to step up and fill those shoes or just be the best they can be. Definitely scoring is something we were concerned about.
“This summer we had trouble at times scoring, but we’ve really worked on it and I feel like we’ll be fine in that.”
Myrick said Watkins and Davidson should help with the scoring.
“Slayter got to play quite a bit last year. We’re expecting some big things out of him. Hunter Davidson’s probably going to be our point guard. Of course Chandon Villines. You’ve got to have a post presence. You’ve got to be able to score in the inside to open up things on the outside. We’re hoping he comes on and has a great year for us.”
Mayes will be counted on for scoring and rebounding this year.
“I am looking forward to my senior year. It’s going to be a good year,” he said. “A lot of new guys, but we’re working well in practice. It should be a good year.”
Mayes, who will be a three-year starter this season, also likes what he sees from the sophomores.
“They’re getting better in practice and making us better, making me better every day.”
Mayes said finding an offense this year will be a team effort.
“I think we need to play more as a team, like we have a big guy in Chandon Villines and Hunter Davidson’s a good point guard, so if we move the ball well this year and get good shots we should be alright.”
Villines said he’s anxious to get on the court after missing most of last year.
“All I could do was take mental reps. That was it. It hurt me,” he said.
“I’ve got coach [Tyler] Trumbo showing me the process. He’s helping me through it, [along with] coach Myrick, coach [Kaleb] Houston.”
Villines said the process is improving his inside game.
“I’ve been getting post moves down better and being more consistent. Both hands on each side of the basket. A lot of reps.”
Villines played last season for a while after injuring his leg.
“I had a stress fracture in my left leg. I had been playing on it for five or six games and then they finally did an MRI and they found out. That’s why I was out the whole season. It hurt me a lot because I was just getting into basketball.”
Villines said he’s ready for the season to get going.
“I’m rearing to go. I’m hoping no injuries, everything goes good. I’m ready.”
Huntsville again will compete in the 4A-1 Conference with Berryville, Farmington, Gentry, Gravette, Harrison, Pea Ridge, Prairie Grove and Shiloh Christian.
Farmington finished 10-2 in conference a year ago while Huntsville and Harrison were 9-2. The Eagles won the East Division of the conference.
The annual Maroon and White games will begin at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9. Games will include seventh grades, junior high and varsity, both boys and girls.
Myrick will be assisted again this year by Tyler Trumbo and Kaleb Houston.