Raiders, Owls front runners for district title
by By REECE RUTLAND Banner Sports Writer
Nov 08, 2012 | 1160 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL boys basketball coaches welcomed a new colleague Wednesday at the annual District 5-AAA Media Day Luncheon. New Rhea County head coach Mike Phillips, second from left, chats with Bradley County coaches, from left, Jason McCowan (Cleveland High), Kent Smith (Bradley Central) and Bob Williams (Walker Valley).  Banner photo, JOE CANNON
LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL boys basketball coaches welcomed a new colleague Wednesday at the annual District 5-AAA Media Day Luncheon. New Rhea County head coach Mike Phillips, second from left, chats with Bradley County coaches, from left, Jason McCowan (Cleveland High), Kent Smith (Bradley Central) and Bob Williams (Walker Valley). Banner photo, JOE CANNON
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Cleveland High’s Blue Raider basketball squad led coaches’ poll scoring Wednesday afternoon as District 5-AAA girls and boys basketball programs met for the preseason Media Day luncheon.

The Raiders’ boys took second place in the Media poll behind the defending Region 3-AAA champion Ooltewah Owls.

Bradley Central was third in both polls and Walker Valley rounded out the Bradley County teams with a fifth-place selection amongst media and coaches.

Raider head coach Jason McCown started off by saying his team has faced some adversity early on, as it originally started with seven seniors in the program, but now finds itself with only three and with a chip on their shoulders.

“As of right now, we are focusing much more on what we have than what we don’t,” explained McCown.

He said his first step was to contact Science Hill, which experienced a similar situation and turned it into postseason momentum, finishing in the state tournament’s semis and walking away with a record of 35-3.

Cleveland will feature a lot of depth on the squad, but could face questions at the point guard position according to their head coach.

He also said that the team would face a very difficult nondistrict series of games in order to prepare for postseason play, saying the team was likely to take some lumps early in anticipation of highly competitive league play.

On the other side of town, Bradley Central is worried about “lumps” of a different kind, as their standout guard and senior leader Bryce Copeland is still recovering from a strenuous football season.

In fact, 15 of the 29 Bear basketball players in the program are coming onto the hardwood from the gridiron. So, the team is in a state of acclimation right now and adjusting after getting everyone back.

But, the biggest change this season might come from head coach Kent Smith, who said he has decided to spend more time putting his focus on enjoying the coaching process after how Bradley’s boys’ and girls’ seasons ended last year.

Walker Valley will find itself in a different situation from last season. After not having a single senior on the 2011-12 squad, the Mustangs will put six senior leaders on the hardwood this season.

Head coach Bob Williams said the team will feature much of the same playing style, but with bigger, stronger guys thanks to an increased weight room regimen in the offseason.

In addition to experienced starters, Walker Valley will also feature a deeper bench this season with nine juniors who will see play time throughout the season.

“You will probably see 12 guys every night. We have some great role-players that can come off the bench and really give us a spark,” explained Williams.

He also joked that the last time the Mustang football team made the playoffs, his basketball team traveled to the state tournament. He said he hopes to keep that tradition alive.

Ooltewah was given top nods in the media poll after their postseason run last season.

Head coach Jesse Nayadley said that his team lost three starters, but his young crew shows a lot of talent and heart despite their inexperience.

McMinn’s Cherokees will be looking for scoring when they kick off their season. The team will be led by two seniors who were “part-time” starters last season.

The squad does feature a 6-foot-4-inch returning post player, but most of the rest of the team lacks size, according to coach Keith Elliott.

After giving his normal lead-in of exasperated but witty remarks, Soddy-Daisy coach Kevin Templeton turned the tables, saying that he is actually excited for what this season might bring for Trojan basketball.

While he’s unsure if change will translate into a windfall of wins, he is impressed by his young team’s hard work on the practice court and does not doubt his players’ character or commitment.

“This year’s squad is much more about ‘we’ than we are about ‘me.’ They understand what it means to play as a team,” related Templeton.

Over in Rhea County, the changes keep on coming — a new turf football field, a new high school and now a new head basketball coach.

Mike Phillips, the winningest coach in Plant High School (Fla.), has made the trek to Rhea County to be a part of rebuilding the Golden Eagle program.

He said this season his team will be on the shorter side, but he is confident with what he’s seen from his shooters. Defensively, the team will try to control the pace of play with a man-to-man attack.

District 5-AAA Boys

Coaches Poll

1. Cleveland High

2. Ooltewah

3. Bradley Central

4. McMinn County

5. Walker Valley

6. Rhea County

7. Soddy-Daisy

Media Poll

1. Ooltewah

2. Cleveland High

3. Bradley Central

4. McMinn County

5. Walker Valley

6. Rhea County

7. Soddy-Daisy