BOYS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Kennett hopes to benefit from past experience

Pictured is the Kennett varsity boys basketball team. Pictured front row left to right are: Carter Maddox, Quav’aun Harrell, Marsayv’aun Harrell, La’Quez Pulliam, and Dashawn Franks; pictured back row left to right are: coach Jack Walls, coach John Patton, Ben McMullan, Jackson Henfling, Kobe Gates, Bodey Ellis, coach Conner Gahr, and head coach Andrew Halford.

The Kennett Indians varsity boys basketball program is blessed with experience entering the 2019-20 season.

“We have all five of our returning starters coming back and seven of our top nine players returning,” Kennett coach Andrew Halford said. “They’ve done a lot of stuff in the offseason to get better so we are excited to see what they can do.”

The seven returning players who played significant minutes on last season’s varsity squad that finished 13-13 are: senior guard Marsayv’aun Harrell, senior guard Quayv’aun Harrell, senior guard La’Quez Pulliam, senior guard Carter Maddox, senior forward Jackson Henfling, junior forward Kobe Gates, and sophomore forward Ben McMullan.

“We have a lot of court experience with these guys,” Henfling said. “We are much farther ahead this year than what we were last year at this time. These guys have taken a lot of what we have given them and ran with it.”

The Indians graduated its two tallest players - Matthew Hamer and Mark Wagster - last season. But six of the other seven returners are at least six-foot-three.

“Losing Mark and Matthew is big because they were six-five and six-seven,” Halford said. “But I don’t think it will be a big issue because the majority of our guys are six-three and can move and defend. They also know how to play well together. They know each other's strengths and weaknesses on the defensive end. They understand how to play together and make adjustments on the court.”

Quayv’aun Harrell averaged a team-high 14 points per game last season.

“He was our leading scorer last season,” Halford said. “He’s a good offensive player but with his length, we are expecting big things from him on the defensive end as well this year.”

Henfling averaged 11 points per game and broke state-record for charges last season.

“He can play multiple positions,” Halford said. “We can throw him in the paint and let him work in there or play him on the perimeter. His decision-making is very beneficial for us.”

Pulliam averaged 10 points per game last season.

“His scoring total is kind of deceptive because early in the year he wasn't scoring as much as he can,” Halford said. “After Christmas, he started making better decisions and shot it well. He’s a good, solid ball-handler. He’s also got good lateral quickness and can really stick with guys on defense.”

McMullan averaged eight points per game and was one of the top 3-pointer shooters on the squad.

“He shot the ball really well from 3-point range last season as a freshman,” Halford said.

Gates is a strong candidate to crash the boards in the paint.

“Kobe probably only played nine or 10 games last season due to a back injury,” Halford said. “But he was our leading rebounder in the games he did play last season.”

Halford said he believes his other two senior returners - Marsayv’aun Harrell and Maddox - are also ready to contribute in bigger ways.

“Those two guys have improved so much,” Halford said. “They are ready to help us out and have big years as well. It was fun to watch their development over the summer.”

Kennett plays all three of its regular-season tournaments before January.

“We are pushing the guys we do have in practice and trying to get them ready for whatever competition level they may have to compete against early in the season,” Halford said. “Fortunately most of our football guys are returners so they should have a good idea of what we want to see from them when we finally get them. We should be able to just throw them in the mix and they can pick up from where they left off last season.”

Kennett opens its season Dec. 2 at the Gideon Invitational. Hayti. No. 1 seeded Kennett plays No. 8 seeded Delta C-7 Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. Other first-round games on Dec. 2 are: No. 2 seeded Caruthersville vs. No. 7 seeded Clarkton at 5:30 p.m., No. 3 seeded Hayti vs. No. 6 seeded Senath-Hornersville at 7 p.m., and No. 4 seeded Doniphan vs. No. 5 seeded Gideon at 8:30 p.m.

“We are grateful Gideon accepted us into their tournament,” Halford said. “It’s a great opportunity to play a few games close to home because we travel a lot through the year to play conference and district opponents. Whether we’ve got five or six varsity guys or all of them we want to go to Gideon and start the season out well.”

The SEMO Conference Tournament is Dec. 9-13 at Sikeston High School.

“I think each night you will have competitive matches regardless of who is playing,” Halford said of the SEMO Conference. “It will be hard to put together three good games to win it.”

The 16-team Bloomfield Christmas Tournament rounds out the first month of the schedule for Kennett on Dec. 26-30.

“Getting to Christmas in a good position is going to be a challenge for us,” Halford said. “But it should be an easier transition with this group because they know what to expect and know how to do things. They’ve just got to get in here and get to work.”

Kennett Boys Basketball Schedule

12/2-12/6Gideon Tourn.Gideon
12/9-12/13SEMO Conf Tourn.Sikeston
12/26-12/30Bloomfield Tourn.Bloomfield
1/21Saxony LutheranHome
1/28Poplar BluffHome
2/7Cape CentralAway
Pictured is the Kennett junior varsity boys basketball team. Pictured front row from left to right are: Zy’trevion Williams, Kamden Crafton, Ishmael Harrell, Derione Davis, Rylee Spencer, Fred Hill, and Daniel Boatman; pictured back row left to right are: coach Jack Walls, coach John Patton, Quantrell Kelly, Elijah Jackson, Kewon Hopkins, Riley Henfling, Blake Raspberry, Verrius Ellis, Coach Conner Gahr, and coach Andrew Halford.
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