Note: This sports preview appears in the Wednesday, Dec. 4 newspaper on Page B1.
WELLSTON — Wellston hasn’t seen a sectional title or a district appearance since 2012, and last year was a little bit of a step back.
Garnering just three wins last year was not what it envisioned. However, there are some returning players and other guys have worked to elevate their games.
The fact that Wellston’s team is comprised of some players from the football team, the hope is that winning translate from the gridiron to the hardwood.
“I’ve definitely noticed more confidence in the guys this year, and I think having that success in football is a big part of that,” Wellston coach Joe Briggs said. “Another thing that helps is I think we have more guys this year who have actually played basketball than any of the four years I’ve been here. Their expectations are higher this year.”
Four seniors return to the fold this year in Rylan Molihan, Josh Bodey, Jordan Carey and Zane Ervin.
Molihan is the engine that makes Wellston go as he is coming off an All-TVC season. Bodey missed most of last season with health concerns, but he’s back and stronger than ever.
Carey and Ervin provided solid minutes, and are expected to elevate their games to another level this season.
“Those guys are seasoned and experienced,” Briggs said. “Rylan started every game for us and is one of the best defenders in the league. We’ll ask a lot out of him this season. Josh has been a varsity player since he was a sophomore so he knows what to expect and he’s a big body at 6-foot-5 and 240 pounds.
“Jordan was our sixth man, but also started a few games for us last year. He was a little slow after suffering an injury during football but he’s healthy and we expect a lot from him and the same from Zane as well.”
Junior R.J. Kemp returns to the starting lineup as does Hunter Smith, who got moved up from JV midway last season and finished as the team’s leading scorer.
“Hunter is a mismatch nightmare at 6-foot-5,” Briggs said. “His problem was that he was a little too frail last year so we kept him down to let him continue growing. He’s worked really hard to improve his game and he’ll probably end up as our leading scorer. R.J. brings experience as another guard who can handle the ball and make good decisions. He’s been through the battles and we trust him to make plays we needed.”
Juniors Chase Ingalls, Jon Garvin and Jarrett Wilson alongside Geno Deatherage are also expected to make major impacts for the Golden Rockets this year.
“Those guys defend really well and bring something different to the table,” Briggs said. “We brought up Jon during our tournament game and he was boxing out kids that were six or seven inches taller so he’s not afraid to do the dirty work. Chase is very quick and might be the fastest on the team next to Rylan. He’s a good on the ball defender who is getting healthy from his shoulder injury. Geno has the ability to shoot from the outside so that gives us another element to work with as well.”
It’s been years since the Golden Rockets have been TVC champions. But if winning truly does translate, the league could be in a major surprise.
“We’re a pretty deep and experienced team. We want to play 10 guys every night and I’ve seen a lot of progression from guys to make that very viable,” Briggs said. “Every day has been a competition and these guys have been battling for their spots. As long as we continue to improve every day, I think we can make some things happen.”
Wellston opened its season against Oak Hill on Tuesday. It returns to the court on Friday at Rock Hill.