Here are team previews for Jackson County's 2019-20 varsity boys basketball teams:
NORTH JACKSON CHIEFS
› Coach: Zac Barringer (third season)
› First game: Nov. 14 at Ider
› Area: Class 4A Area 14
› Area opponents: DAR and Randolph
› 2018-19 record/finish: 10-17, area tournament semifinals
› Roster: Seniors Trevor Anderson, Daniel Fiegel, Carter Gass, Eli Gill, Tyrus Jackson and Trayvon Nicholson; juniors Cade Reed and Brandyn Thompson; sophomores Zeke Ballard, Brady Cunningham and Devontay Pickett.
› Returning starters: 4 full-time, 4 part-time
› Storylines: North Jackson boasts an experienced team this season, with eight of its 11 varsity players having started games at times last season. The Chiefs have six seniors, including college prospects Eli Gill and Tyrus Jackson.
› Quoting coach: “We were really young last year and we had a lot of injuries. We have a lot of experience coming back. Our guys gained another year of maturity both mentally and physically. I absolutely love my guys and am excited about seeing our hard work pay off. Coach Terry Ballard has done a great job with our conditioning program. Our guys are in tremendous shape. Coach Justin Grider has done an outstanding job working with our post players. It's an exciting time to be a North Jackson Chief. Last season we only had one member on our team not miss a game due to sickness or injury. We had a different starting line-up almost every game. We have a very talented group of guys. Each member of our team brings a different skill set and talent to our team. If we can stay healthy, then I feel like we can make a deep run to Birmingham this year.”
› Area outlook: “Our area is sneaky good. We don't have the flashy names that people around here are very familiar with. DAR has 7 seniors who have been on varsity for three years now. They made it to regionals last year and only lost one player. They will be a very tough opponent. Randolph hired Coach Mike Morris who is the All-Time winningest women’s coach at Samford University. He will have his guys playing at an elite level as well. We will have our hands full for sure, but we are definitely up for whatever they can throw at us.”
› Coach: Cole Hicks (third season)
› First game: Nov. 18 vs. Sylvania
› Area: Class 2A Area 15
› Area opponents: Fyffe, Ider and Section
› 2018-19 record/finish: 20-8, area runner-up, 2A Northeast Regional semifinals
› Roster: Seniors Jared Beasley and Cade McBryar; juniors Lake Bell, Noah Helton, Luke Maples, Russ Marr, Josh Palmer and Harley Tucker; sophomores Derek Bearden, Drue Carlton and Kaleb Helton
› Returning starters: Russ Marr
› Storylines: NSM got back to its winning ways in Hicks second-season, notching a 20-win season and advancing the Northeast Regional for the first time in six seasons. NSM returns only one starter, but the Bison were a deep team last season so the new starters aren’t lacking experience as the Bison again compete in a very tough Class 2A Area 15.
› Quoting coach: “I really like this team. Probably the most competitive team I have coached. They do not like to lose even in a drill. We are young and inexperienced. Everybody will get minutes. Had a really good off-season, guys worked extremely hard. We have to learn to guard in the half court and keep teams off the glass. We will have to play hard and play in fifth gear. Everybody has to buy into what we do.”
› Area outlook: “Again like last year, it is a very tough area. Fyffe lost two seniors off a team that went to the Sweet 16 and will be tough to handle. Section was ranked in the Top 10 in state all last year. Ider has a new coach and I think they only lost two seniors from last year. There are no sure wins and all three of those coaches do a superb job with their teams. Got to win your home games and steal a couple on the road.”
› Coach: Woody Beard (23rd season)
› First game: Nov. 19 vs. Sand Rock
› Area: Class 3A Area 15
› Area opponents: Geraldine, Plainview and Sylvania
› 2018-19 record/finish: 6-17, area tournament semifinals
› Roster: Seniors Trey Barrentine, Tyler Bell, Austin Brown, Austin Brunk, Kolton Chadwick, Nate Cornelison, Austin Thornhill and Jared Wilks; junior Zac Cornelison; sophomores Rhyan Barrett and Parker Law
› Returning starters: Austin Brown, Kolton Chadwick, Zac Cornelison and Jared Wilks
› Storylines: The Eagles look to bounce back from a difficult 2018-19 season. Last year saw many new faces on the varsity, but now the Eagles return four starters and several reserves how got varsity experience a year ago. Returning to the postseason will require navigating a difficult area led by defending two-time state champion Plainview.
› Quoting coach: “I think it is going to be a great year for Jackson County Basketball. There are a lot of very competitive teams. I am excited for the season. We have a quality core returning. With eight seniors we should have leadership and recognize the importance of making every game count. Effort, team attitude and team play will be vital to our success.”
› Area outlook: “Our area will be very strong, both Sylvania and Geraldine have the majority of their players returning, while Plainview will be somewhat rebuilding but still be very good.”
› Coach: Kenny Hill (seventh season)
› First game: Nov. 7 at St. John Paul II
› Area: Class 5A Area 15
› Area opponents: Arab, Brewer and Guntersville
› 2017-18 record/finish: 15-17, area runner-up, 5A Northeast Regional semifinal
› Roster: Senior Butler Bell; juniors Javaris Branford, Jordan Davis, BJ Harris and Noah Linville; sophomores Dominik Blair, Jacob Cooper and Dylan Fairbanks; freshmen Parker Bell, Tyson Sexton and Seth Whitmire
› Returning starters: Full-time: Butler Bell, BJ Harris and Javaris Lankford; part-time Jordan Davis and Jacob Cooper
› Storylines: Scottsboro returns an experienced team from a squad that reached the regionals from a challenging area. The Wildcats also welcome back BJ Harris after a knee injury cost the sophomore point guard them majority of the season. His return as well as some newcomers should have the Wildcats in the hunt for another postseason run.
› Quoting coach: “Although we only have one senior, we are a somewhat veteran team with several players that have played in over 25p plus varsity competitions. I really like the makeup of our team and I feel that if we stay healthy and engaged in the desire to be the best we can be, then we will be a tough out come February. We definitely have to stay healthy and be a hard-nosed basketball team. I think if we team rebound consistently and share the ball then we will be fine. We definitely need to get the ball in the hands of our two veteran playmakers (Butler Bell and BJ Harris) and run our offense through those two. Defensively we are going to have to be able to be good at two or three defenses and fit that to the personnel that is on the floor. Overall I think if we play hard and smart like we did down the back stretch of last season, then we will be fine.”
› Area outlook: “I think our area is as competitive as any I have ever coached in. We don't have one team that can't compete night in and night out. We could very easily see the No. 1-seed lose to the No. 4-seed. Our area is that competitive. Every team also has great coaching and really good players. It's going to be a fun and competitive year once again in our area.”
› Coach: Derek Wynn (second season)
› First game: Nov. 8 at Asbury
› Area: Class 2A Area 15
› Area opponents: North Sand Mountain, Fyffe and Ider
› 2018-19 record/finish: 17-10, area tournament semifinals
› Roster: Seniors Matthew Brewster, Theo Durlait, Trevier Porter, Staton Robbins and Leo Viljanin; junior Bo Bradford; sophomores Alex Guinn, Gabe Hilley, Drake McCutchen and Logan Patterson
› Returning starters: Logan Patterson
› Storylines: Section went from being one of the most experienced teams in Jackson County last year to one the most inexperienced this season. Only one player starting at season’s end is back, and the returning varsity players will see their roles expand this season.
› Quoting coach: “We lost all but 10 points and six rebounds from last year. We will have to see who is going to step up and score and be the leader we need when things get tough. Varsity game experience will be down, so the first couple of months will be learning to adjust and play like we're supposed to. This group has been working very hard in the weight room and have made it a priority to be more physical than we have been in the past. We have to focus on getting better each day. We can't really worry about wins and losses in first half of the season. We have to be better in January then we start out in the first couple of months. We have to have positive leadership from myself and the leadership council and when things aren't going our way during games and during practices we have to hold each other accountable. We have to play hard each night and give it all we have every time out.”
› Area outlook: “Like last year, this is the toughest area in the state. Fyffe is the front runner, with NSM a close second. The place you don't want to fall into is the 4th seed in our area tournament. We have to use each game to get better and be where we want to be going into the area tournament. We have to be better in January and February than we are in November and December.
› Coach: Ronnie McCarver (eighth season)
› First game: Nov. 15 at Southeastern
› Area: Class 1A Area 14
› Area opponents: Woodville, Gaylesville and Valley Head
› 2018-19 record/finish: 24-9, area champion, 1A Northeast Regional runner-up
› Roster: Seniors Dylan Bickers, Hunter Hopper, William Hollingsworth, Collin Lockard, Colton Lockard, Conner Lockard, Kordell Talley, Jaxen White and Dawson Wynn; junior Jaylen Clements
› Returning starters: Jaylon Clements, Collin Lockard, Kordell Talley and Dawson Wynn
› Storylines: Skyline brings back all but one player from last year’s county and area championship and was the Class 1A Northeast Regional runner-up team. Post player Collin Lockard was an all-state performer a year ago. If the Vikings stay healthy and consistently make perimeter shots they could challenge for the state championship.
› Coach: Bubba Smith (third season)
› First game: Nov. 18 vs. Section
› Area: Class 1A Area 14
› Area opponents: Skyline, Gaylesville and Valley Head
› 2018-19 record/finish: 14-16, area runner-up, 1A Northeast Sub-regionals
› Roster: Seniors Joseph Benson, Corey Chance, Christian Franks, Da’vion Johnson, Abel Sisk, Brandon Sutuj and Zach Thompson; junior Jackson Peek; sophomores Garrett Copeland, Caleb Dolberry and Bryce Thompson
› Returning starters: Da’vion Johnson and Jackson Peek
› Storylines: The Panthers are an older team that doesn’t however boast much varsity experience. Da’vion Johnson and Jackson Peek are the team’s only returning starters, and Woodville must find ways to make up for the point production lost by graduated Blake Frazier, a former all-state selection.
› Quoting coach: “Even though we have seven seniors, we are very inexperienced. We will have to have some kids step up and play at their max potential. We need to shoot the ball better and cut down on turnovers. Everyone know their role and play to their strengths.”
› Area outlook: “Skyline is the team to beat. Elite Eight team with everyone back. Valley head has a lot of returning players as well as Gaylesville.”