Jackson hopes to build 2016-17 Patriots’ depth

STANFORD — Finding some depth among his numbers will be a concern for Lincoln County boys basketball coach Jeff Jackson in the 2016-17 season.
The Patriots have some talented players returning, with starters Devin Alcorn, Tanner McAninch and Noah Young back for their senior season, along with key senior sixth-man Carlos Nunez. Others will need to step up to play other important roles.
“We’re a work in progress,” Jackson said. “We’ve got three returning starters in Noah, Devin and Tanner, and Carlos, Nick (Noland) and Chase (Phillips) played some last year. Blake (Smith) played a little bit and other than that, with Bryson (Yaden) being out due to an injury, we’re trying to develop some depth.”  
With 19 players in the program, which includes varsity and junior varsity teams, the Patriots have the numbers to do that. The sophomores on the 15-man varsity roster are Blake Smith, Cameron Britton and Sawyer Carrier. Seven freshmen are also on the varsity roster, with Trey Cummins, Elijah Frye, Damien Givens-Ford, Bryston Alcorn and Riley Bodner suiting up. And eighth-grader Spencer Baird grabs the final varsity slot. Rounding out the program are sophomores Louis Rice, John Mark Loudermilk and Dalyn Pope and freshman Zane Rousey. 
“Our freshmen and sophomore classes coming through are very strong and very deep. We’re expecting big contributions,” said Jackson. “In our sophomores, Blake had a great scrimmage. I think he had three 3’s against Corbin. He can do a lot of things. Sawyer (Carrier) is big-bodied and is getting better. And Cam Britton is doing really, really good. He’s improved a lot. And we’re really, really excited about the freshmen class we have.”
“There’s five or six kids that we leave here it seems like talking about every day that,  in a pinch, we feel comfortable after 24 practices that we can put him in there for a little bit.”
The Lincoln coaching staff’s comfort level was tested in a scrimmage at  Corbin after Noah Young took a hard hit.
“When Noah got hit, we yelled at Trey Cummins, ‘Trey get in there and give him a break,’ and he said, ‘Me?’ and we said, ‘Yeah, you.’ So we have faith and confidence in several of these freshmen and sophomores that if we need to we feel comfortable putting them out on the floor. They’ve earned that by what they’re doing in practice.”
Although lacking the depth he’d like, Jackson isn’t complaining about the players he has on the hardwood ready to build on last season’s 19-12 record, which included a 45th District championship. 
“We’re excited about our team. They worked really hard all spring, had a great summer. And they’ve worked really, really hard this fall and we’ve gotten a lot stronger,” he said. “Coach (Shawn) Conley has really, really done a great job getting our kids stronger in the weight room. Mr. (Travis) Leffew really went out and got us some new weights and different things we needed to improve our weight program. So we’re a lot bigger and a lot stronger than we have been in quite a while.”
When it comes to pegging some of his best athletes or top players, Jackson doesn’t hesitate at all in naming his four seniors – Alcorn, McAninch, Nunez and Young.
“Our seniors are my favorite group – ever,” he said. “They work their tails off every day. They are very polite and well-mannered. They listen and are coachable. They do a great job in the classroom and in the community. They really represent themselves and Lincoln County basketball in a big way. I just couldn’t enjoy being around a group of kids more than I enjoy being around them. I don’t know how I got so lucky.”
“Noah, Devin and Tanner are our returning starters. We’re expecting all three of those kids to have big years for us and to provide a lot of great leadership. Carlos is playing really, really well. We feel like football was really good for him. He’s gotten a lot stronger and toned up as well.”
Young and Alcorn led Lincoln’s scoring last season with Young getting 16.8 points per game with 2.3 rebounds and Alcorn getting 10.3 points per game and 3.6 rebounds.
“Our junior class with Chase (Phillips) and Nick (Noland) is doing well,” Jackson said. “Right now those five kids (seniors and Phillips and Noland) are our projected starters. Nick is getting better every day and working really hard on his individual stuff. And Chase is solid. He really does a great job in all facets of the game for us. Tremendous student, too.”
Jackson has already gotten a look at how his projected starters play together, with a good first look at a scrimmage at Corbin.
“We needed to get out and play against somebody different and we had a good scrimmage. Not a great first quarter, but we settled down the last three quarters and played really, really well,” Jackson said. “Our defense was good. We want to continue to get better on that end and we’ve got to do a better job of rebounding. Rebounding is always a concern, but Nick (6-5) gives us a little size and helps us out.” 
Noland isn’t the only size Lincoln can bring to the floor this year, with Sawyer Carrier coming in at 6-5 and Bodner going 6-7.5.
“We’ve got something we haven’t had in a while which is pretty good size,” Jackson said. “We’ve got some length and would not hesitate to put either one of them out there. And put Cam out there with them. He’s 6-02 but he gets up there on that rim.”
Size isn’t the only thing Lincoln brings to the hardwood this season. 
“We’ve got some quickness, too,” said Jackson. “Our kids are in pretty good shape. Our conditioning this fall was really, really good and then Coach Conley’s work in the weight room. We’re bigger, stronger and quicker.”
While there are still some kinks to work out, Jackson says the Patriots are ready to start the season Tuesday at home against Lafayette.
“Today is the 24th day of practice and they’ve gotten better every day. Our defense is getting better, our energy level has been good and our leadership from our seniors has been special,” he said. “The seniors work hard and they encourage the other kids. They’ll get after them if they think they aren’t giving the effort they want them to give. Then they’ll go back and pat them on the tail or put an arm around them. They’ve been good teachers and shown them how to do things the right way. It’s been fun and they’ve been practicing and working hard.”
Despite sporting a somewhat different lineup this season, the Patriots expect to be contenders in the postseason.
“We’re picked anywhere from second to seventh in the region. We need to make sure we’re in the region because the region is here,” Jackson said. “We’ve got a great schedule. We’re trying to improve every day so we get a chance to play on our floor for a chance to go to the state tournament. A lot of good teams, a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches are in our region. It’s always a battle and always a challenge, but it’s one I think our kids are up to. They are focused. Our goal is to get better every day and to get us in position to play for the regional championship. We feel like we have a shot.”