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South Oldham scored more than 2,000 points this season, out-scoring every other Region 8 team.
But a new era will start for the Dragons June 7 when 93 percent of that scoring walks across the stage to graduate.
South graduates nine seniors and all but one player off its main rotation from this year’s team, which fell 83-62 to Hopkinsville March 19 in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16.
When the Dragons take the court next season, the green-and-white candy stripe warmups will be worn by a new cast of characters. Coach Steve Simpson, who’s coached South to its first two Region 8 titles the last two years, said he’s embracing the challenge.
“We’ll probably have a lot of teaching to do in practice,” Simpson said. “But I’m looking forward to that.
“That’s something we haven’t had to do in awhile so that’s always a fun part of it too. We’re looking for next year’s team to be competitive. It may take awhile but we think we can be.”
South won the region title this season while embracing the mantra of “New Team, Same Dream.”
With Kyle Young the only returning starter from the Dragons’ 2012-13 team, South wanted to show it could replace four starting players and still get the same championship result. But several players on last year’s roster had seen time during that first region championship run.
The only returning Dragon next season who typically got more than mop-up duty will be rising junior Isaac Fields. Fields, whose older brother, Carson Fields, was also a South standout, averaged 3.3 points per game off the bench.
Fields has the potential to step into a leadership role for next year’s Dragons, Simpson said.
“I think new leaders will emerge, and Isaac may be one of those,” Simpson said. “He’s kind of the heir apparent. But leadership is earned and not something you can just hand.”
Every position in next year’s lineup is open for tryout, Simpson said.
The Dragons will need new point guards to replace Jonathan Blair and Zach McWilliams. They’ll need new shooters to fill the production of Drew Bullock, Drew Greenwood and Michael Griffin. They’ll need to replace the perimeter defense of Young and inside presence of Drew Horsey.
Several underclassmen are candidates for those roles.
Rising junior Grant Williams saw time at point guard in February while Blair was out with a hip injury. That was valuable experience for Williams, Simpson said.
Rising senior center Matt Cantina “jumps well” and could impress people with his athleticism around the basket, Simpson said.
“I think people are going to be like, ‘Did that kid move in, or what?’” Simpson said. “I think he is really on his way to establishing a post presence there.”
Rising seniors Cameron Miles and Patrick King should figure into the rotation at guard and forward, respectively. Rising junior Trent Bouvet hit five 3’s in the first quarter of a JV district tournament game, according to Simpson.
Youngsters Cooper Cantrell and Joe Griffin, the younger brother of Michael Griffin, could also compete for time, Simpson said.
“We’ve got talent coming,” Simpson said. “It’s just young and untested.”
As long as the new varsity players develop good chemistry, their talents should show, said McWilliams, a graduating point guard.
“They’ll be fine,” McWilliams said. “They’ve got guys coming back that are good and we’ll be cheering them on next year. They’ll get it done.”
Other more experienced teams will likely get more preseason buzz in Region 8.
Oldham County, which returns guards Hayden Hawes and Connor Hicks from a team that beat South for this year’s district title, will be a favorite.
Shelby County and Simon Kenton return several starters. Owen County returns Carson Williams, the rising junior who tallied 37 points and 21 rebounds against South in the region tournament. Grant County and Collins could also contend, Simpson said.
Considering what South will lose, some people are already writing off next year’s Dragons as a team that won’t contend, Bullock said. The graduating guard said that would be a mistake.
“They’re going to be overlooked next year,” Bullock said. “A lot of people say that they’re going to suck, that they’re not going to be very good.
“But I think that they have a lot of talent. They just have to become brothers off the court too... If they work hard I’m sure they’ll be fine. I think they can get back if they really want to.”