Collinsville boys basketball coach Darin Lee foresees the use of an eight-player rotation.
But after the Kahoks open their season with five games in four days at the Pyramid Plus Tournament in Carterville, Lee hopes that depth chart is a bit longer.
Collinsville, which was 9-20 overall and 1-13 in the Southwestern Conference last season, will rely on seniors Ronnie Midgett, Kenrique Brown, Chandler Buehne, Austin Knight and Jaaron Williams; juniors Braeden Lemp and Bailey McGovern; and freshman Aaron Molton.
“I’m hoping we defend better this year, and I think we will,” said Lee, in his eighth season. “That’s something we’ve really (stressed): Defend and rebound on the defensive end a little better. Those things hurt us a lot last year. We can collectively do a better job with that.
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“We have some quickness at the guards, so that will help us. (But) we don’t have a lot of overall size again. After we had the bigs (Emondre Rickman and Sean Davis) a couple of years ago, we’ve had a turnaround in the size advantage for our program.”
The Kahoks open the season with a game against Mount Vernon at 5:30 p.m. Monday. Their other tournament games are against Carterville at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Meridian at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Marion at 1 p.m. Saturday and Herrin at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Leading the way
Midgett, a 6-foot shooting guard, led the Kahoks in scoring last season at 14.8 points a game and made 39 3-pointers. Lee has seen Midgett make strides in the past year.
“He’s done a nice job in practice,” Lee said. “Like a lot of kids when they get older, he’s trying to improve his defense. He at times has had some nice games offensively. When he gets the right shot, he’s been a pretty good shooter. He’s also drawn the focus of the defense, so there are times we need him to find open guys.”
He’s done a nice job in practice. Like a lot of kids when they get older, he’s trying to improve his defense. He at times has had some nice games offensively. When he gets the right shot, he’s been a pretty good shooter. He’s also drawn the focus of the defense, so there are times we need him to find open guys.
Collinsville boys basketball coach Darin Lee on the Kahoks’ top returning player, senior Ronnie Midgett
Finding open teammates also will be a priority for the 6-0 Brown, a point guard who transferred from Metro-East Lutheran. He averaged 11.1 points and 2.6 assists last season.
“He’s got some quickness, and he keeps his head up well,” Lee said. “He’s a true point guard type. He will help us, without question, in that role. He can get to the basket. He’s pretty explosive. We’re hoping, defensively, he can help us also. We need him to be a good player for us. If we didn’t have him, we would have to go with a real young guy.”
Buehne, Knight, Williams and Lemp all saw time last year, although not in major roles. The 6-3 Buehne was the top scorer in the group at 3.4 points a game.
Buehne, along with Brown, will have to prove they can score to take some of the load off Midgett.
“(Buehne) was injured a lot last year,” Lee said. “He never got going, and that hurt us. He’s a steady player, and he shoots it well. He’s very long. There’s no doubt he’s going to be a key for us. I don’t know if he ever got in full basketball condition last year.”
Lee said the 6-3 Knight also could be ready to provide more offensive firepower. Knight, Williams and Lemp all averaged less than two points a game in 2015-16.
One of the Kahoks’ most intriguing players is Molton, a 6-5, 240-pounder who will be thrown into varsity action immediately and could be strong enough to make an impact.
“Depending on the opponent, Molton can get low on the blocks and maybe give us a few buckets in the paint,” Lee said. “Not against some of the better post players, but against some teams that lack a (strong) post, we can go in to him. As he gets older, I think he can be an effective post player in our conference.”
Molton, who is left-handed, will have his hands full against conference opponents like Edwardsville (6-5 A.J. Epenesa), East St. Louis (6-10 Jeremiah Tilmon) and Belleville West (6-7 Tyler Dancy). Of course, he will have plenty of company in that department.
“We’ll see how it goes,” Lee said. “We’ll check the progress as we go along. We’re always looking for big guys. It’s hard to teach size. He’s got soft hands and is a good passer, so that helps. The best thing right now is he can find people out of that post.”
McGovern is 6-5 and could see minutes in the post with Molton. Another freshman, 6-5 Keydrian Jones, is another big. But Lee said he must see Jones in lower-level games to determine whether he also could be an option with the varsity.
Other players on the roster are juniors Christian Wilson and Nathan Janson; sophomores Zane Baker, Logan Whitehead and Marshall Harrison; and freshman Ray’Sean Taylor.
Two players from last season, 6-3 senior Sam Webb and 6-6 junior Jake Hall, did not return to the team. Webb averaged six points and 2.7 rebounds.
“To be honest with you, I haven’t even thought about it,” Lee said of their absences. “When you’re a coaching, you just think about who comes to practice every day, and that’s what you go with.”