Six seniors will look to build off of Daniel Boone’s Region 1-AAA appearance last year and Trailblazers coach Chris Brown says that he has enough confidence in his team that they can do that.
“Our next step is being able to host one of those games,” Brown said. “So that will come from being high in the conference and being more competitive.”
Things will start for the Blazers with big man Evan Scanlan, whose dribbling abilities and basketball IQ separate him from the field and make him into possibly one of the better players in the Big 7 Conference.
“He is probably playing the best he has since I have had him,” Brown said. “It’s more of his mindset then anything else. He will make us go, so he has to have the attack-mode mindset.”
The Blazers will also depend on returners in shooting guard Eric Rigsby and point guard Jayden Stevens, who will round out the starting five with shooter Chad Heglar and big man Chris Brooks.
The biggest presence for the Blazers, both literally and figuratively, will be the 6-foot-8 Brooks.
While he won’t be counted on to score the ball on a consistent basis — that would be an added bonus according to Brown — he will be counted on to alter shots, grab rebounds and occasionally find the bottom of the net.
“He can really get offensive rebounds and we are confident in his ability to finish around the basket,” Brown said. “He moves his feet well for a big man.”
Junior Gunnar Norris is one of the most fundamentally sound players on the Blazers roster and is one of the players that Brown said he has the most confidence in.
Another player that Brown said will heavily contribute is senior Justin Turner, whose wide frame and strength — sharpened as co-offensive lineman of the year in Region 1-5A — will provide the Blazers with toughness.
Turner will also be the bulk in the lineup when the Blazers decide to go big, with him, Brooks, Scanlan and Norris all on the floor.
Justin Carter is another senior holdover from last year, but a knee injury will probably keep him sidelined for the year. Other contributors for the Blazers will be point guard Derek Percell, forward Max Patrick and guard Evan Fitzgerald.
The Blazers were able to score a first-round victory over Sullivan North in the Hardee’s Classic, but they dropped the final two contests — each by a point — to Unicoi County and Daniel Boone to finish fourth in the tournament.
The first two to three weeks of practice have mainly been focusing on defense, according to Brown.
“The system is in and they know my expectations. We were able to start flowing right away in practice and we didn’t have to add alot,” Brown said. “We spent a lot of time on man-to-man defense, because those are my roots and I want to return to that.”