By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Monett Cubs got off to a fast start last season, but were unable to sustain that success with an inexperienced lineup.
The Cubs opened the season with a 4-2 record and a Seneca Tournament championship, and while coach Jeremy Land said his team was close in a lot of games, it had trouble putting complete games together as the season went on.
“We lost seven games by six or fewer points,” Land said. “We had some first-year starters get valuable minutes last year, and I fully expect them to take big steps forward this year.”
Monett finished 9-17 overall and 2-4 in the Big 8 West last season, eventually falling to McDonald County in the first round of the Class 4 District 12 tournament.
Players lost to graduation include: Jackson Spencer, Gavin Carr and Alim Miftari.
Spencer, earned all-district and honorable mention all-conference honors, and averaged 14 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists per game.
Carr averaged 12.5 PPG, 4.1 RPG and 3.8 APG, and Miftari contributed 6.3 PPG and 3.8 RPG.
Monett has three starters returning, as well as several junior and senior newcomers ready to keep the program moving forward.
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• Trevon Price, is a 6-foot-3 senior forward, who averaged 11.5 PPG, 7.2 RPG and 1.1 APG. He was an all-district and second-team all-conference selection. “Trevon is a very athletic player who has improved his ability to get to and finish at the rim,” Land said. “He creates matchup problems and is a solid defender.”
• Cole McCollough, 6-0 senior guard, averaged 5.4 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 3 APG. “Cole gives us a great outside-shooting threat. He has expanded his game in the offseason and I expect a big leap forward.”
• Cameron George,6-2 junior forward, averaged 4.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 1.6 APG. “Cameron is someone who can do a little bit of everything for us. He moves into a more natural position this year and will be asked handle much for us.”
“Our strengths will be the experience we bring back,” Land said. “We bring back three starters and a total of seven lettermen that have played key minutes. We will need to lean on that throughout a very challenging conference season.
“A few of our players have really improved and gained confidence since last season. I believe our unselfishness will help our ball movement and in turn help our shot selection. We also have had some of our players really mature physically since last basketball season.”
Land also has several newcomers looking to contribute this season.
• Ben Hoyt, 5-9 junior guard. “Ben will take over a guard position and be a glue guy for us,” Land said. “He does many of the little things very well.”
• Gavin Austin, 5-10 senior guard. “Gavin gives us an athletic guard who will be a solid defender/slasher.”
• Bryce Erwin, 5-10 senior guard. “Bryce gives us a solid, knock-down shooter from the outside.”
• Arijan Miftari, 6-2 senior forward. “Arijan is a smart player who will be a solid defender for us.”
• Gavin Bailey, 6-2 senior forward. “Gavin will battle for minutes at the forward position.”
• Doss Nation, 6-1 junior guard. “Doss gives us another solid, outside-shooting threat and will compete for time at guard.”
• Cameron Erwin, 5-10 sophomore guard. “Cameron is a skilled player who will battle for time at guard.”
“One of the keys for us this year will be if our role players can adjust to the varsity level quickly,” Land said. “We also are not overly big this year, so being physical on the glass will be key.”
The Cubs open their season in the Forsyth Tournament on Dec. 2-7, and Land said his players are “ready to leave their stamp on our program.”
“They understand the system and know what the expectations are,” Land said. “Our kids are beginning to see how important accountability and leadership are on a daily basis. We had a great summer and want to continue to take a step forward this year. We will look to get better ball/player movement and efficiency on the offensive end.
“Defensively, we will show multiple looks and try to keep the offense off-balance. If we approach everyday with the mind-set of improving, we will be successful this season. Our goal is to continue to improve as the season goes on so we can be playing our best basketball as we enter district play.”