The Fair Grove boys have some unfinished business heading into 2015-16.
Last year was one of the best seasons in program history. Fair Grove went 25-6 to secure the most wins in a single season in program history. The Eagles had their best finish at the Blue & Gold ever at third place. They also won the program’s first district title in 13 years.
The Eagles did not accomplish one goal: the Final Four. Fair Grove came up just short in a 66-61 quarterfinal loss to Mountain Grove.
“We have a strong core of veteran players returning this season that wants to continue the success that we had last year and wants to continue to raise the bar for our basketball program,” Fair Grove coach Tim Brown said. “They were able to experience success last year and they are motivated to give themselves another chance to make another post season run.”
Fair Grove lost all-state selection Kyle Cavanaugh and three-year starting guard Mason Kesterson to graduation, but many other key pieces return.
Those returning players start with one of the area’s top shooters in Garrett Kesterson who averaged 20 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals per game as a junior.
“I have said since he was a freshman that he is one of the best shooters in the area, but I felt like last year has evolved into one of the best players in the area,” Brown said. “He continues to elevate his level of play and get better in all areas of his game. He has learned to mix up his game and score in a variety of ways and not just rely on his outside shooting abilities.”
Kesterson has 1,450 points for his career, and he has knocked down 248 total 3-point shots in his career. He is just 107 3-point makes from setting the record for the state of Missouri.
Evan Fullerton and Steven Huskey also step back into the starting lineup after all-conference seasons a year ago.
Fullerton, who stands a 6’7, averaged 10 points and 6 rebounds last season.
“He (Fullerton) has continued to grow, mature and develop. He has put on 20 pounds this off-season from dedicating himself to the weight room and playing football for the past two seasons,” Brown said. “This year we are going to use him more on the offensive end and get him more involved. At 6’7 he is a very tough match-up for teams with his size, athleticism and skill set.”
Huskey averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds as a sophomore. His 6’5 frame helps add another big body to the Fair Grove frontline.
“He (Huskey) had some big games for us as a sophomore where he bailed us out and put us on his back when we were unable to score from the perimeter and keep plays alive and score tough baskets in the paint,” Brown said. “We are also going to utilize him more this season on the offensive end. He is a very good player and we believe his offensive production will be much higher this season.”
Dalton Cloyd was the sixth-man for Fair Grove last year, and will play a larger role this season.
“He (Cloyd) was our best defender and toughest player on our team. He may be the most competitive kid in our school, he’s our best football player and is a winner,” Brown said. “He has continued to mature and develop physically and looks like a senior on the basketball court.”
In addition, the junior trio of Garrett Potter, Jayden Kensinger and Brian Carroll will be factors this season. Freshman guard Cole Gilpin stands at 6’2 and is expected to see varsity minutes.
Brown is hoping the experience of his upperclassmen can carry this team at least one step further and to Columbia this season.
“Our senior class has played in three straight district championship games and has big game experience,” Brown said. “Our goal is to get better each and every day and compete each time we take the floor. We know that there are a lot of good teams and programs in our conference and in our district. It is going to take a high energy and high effort levels for us to have the success that we want.”
Fair Grove opens the season on Nov. 22 at Forsyth. The Eagles then don’t play again until Dec. 6 at home against Mount Vernon.