WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210 • WWW.BOBBYLEDBETTER.COM • 256-844-2210

BOYS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW: Senior-laden Sand Rock seeks its turn

Sand Rock senior Kaden Justice makes an acrobatic move on his way to the basket at Spring Garden last season. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SAND ROCK – The Sand Rock boys basketball team is hoping it’s their turn in 2023.

The past two years the Wildcats’ seasons have ended to the eventual Class 2A state champions. Two years ago it was Midfield. Last year it was Section.

With eight seniors featured in the Wildcat lineup, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

“Why not us?” senior guard Kaden Justice said. “This year at practice, our energy is completely different. In practice last year, compared to this year, we’re just not the same team. I think if we keep bringing that energy that we’re bringing like we are this year, then we’ll go a long way this year.”

“I feel like it’s our turn,” senior point guard Jacob StClair said.

StClair and Justice are two big reasons why the Wildcats have the optimism they do for a special 2022-23 season. Both were pulled up to varsity at the end of their eighth grade year. StClair averaged 24.1 points, 3.3 boards, 5.7 assists and 1.9 steals last season. Justice averaged 16.5 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and a blocked shot per contest.

The Wildcats’ other seniors include Ben Dale, Bradley Jackson, Brian Giles, Ace Ashley, Logan Crider and Sloan Wood. The Wildcats also have three sophomores in Carson Chesnut, Jake Middlebrooks and Zack Clanton.

“You’re looking at 11 people (on the roster) and you have one basketball. You can only start five at time,” Sand Rock coach John Blackwell said. “These guys have to understand their role, what they can do to make Sand Rock better, not necessarily what they can do to make themselves better.

“We just have to make sure we understand the idea that basketball is a team sport. I think they will. I think we did that last year. We don’t need eight different leading scorers. We need to understand who’s a scorer, who’s a rebounder, who’s a defender, who can make the pass, who can sit on the bench when it’s not their time to play and be a good team leader. If we do those things, I think we can be successful.”

Blackwell got the chance to tweak things with the Wildcats during the summer. He says they’re going to look “a little different” than they did last season, particularly inside.

“Between Jake (Middlebrooks) and Bradley (Jackson), I think our post game will be a little better than it has been since I’ve been here,” Blackwell said.

“Ben Dale played last year and has kind of swapped positions. He had the opportunity to get a lot of playing time this summer, and he’s really excelled.

“Sloan Wood did not play last year, but he’s played all the way up. He came back this year as a senior, so he’s going to be a good addition to our team. He’s a two-guard and a good shooter, but his mentality is he wants to pull every rebound. That’s the attitude I’m talking about. I might can hit a three, but I’m playing on a team with one or two of the best 3-point shooters in the state of Alabama. Instead of worrying about how many threes I get, somebody needs to be the leading rebounder. Just because I’m a guard doesn’t mean I can’t be a leading rebounder.

“We’re not going to be the most talented, most athletic team that we step on the floor with every time. If you put the work in and play as a team and follow the discipline and fundamentals you’re taught, then you can be successful. That’s what I hope people see – that we work hard, we play hard, we play as a team, and we stick to our fundamentals.”

Sand Rock opens the 2022-23 season at home Tuesday evening against Class 4A DAR. The Wildcats host Class 6A Gadsden City on Nov. 15 before playing in their first tournament of the season at Geraldine Nov. 21-23. They open Class 2A, Area 12 play at Gaston on Nov. 29. Other teams in the Wildcats’ area this season include Collinsville and Fyffe.

“We’ve given them a good schedule,” Blackwell said. “The only 2A teams we play basically are the ones in our area. Everybody else is 5A, 6A, 7A basketball. I don’t know what our win-loss record will be, but we’re trying to put them in a position that will get them prepared to win a state championship.

“Hopefully these guys have put in the time and have done what they need to do. Maybe next year somebody’s saying they lost to us and that was a state championship team, but there’s a lot of basketball before we get there. It starts Tuesday night against DAR.”

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print