Neosho has a new head coach in Tony Branscum this year, but he is not a new face. Branscum was an assistant to previous head coach Jason Horn, who took the same position at Webb City.
“The transition to the head job will be made easier because of my familiarity with the players,” Branscum said. “Serving under Coach Horn certainly prepared me for my first opportunity as a head coach. I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Branscum will make subtle changes, but overall things will have a familiar feel on the court for the Neosho boys.
“I am not trying to reinvent the game. Coach Horn teaches a quality brand of basketball which I will continue to teach,” Branscum said. “Every coach has a unique style so I am sure there will be little differences that pop up throughout the season in my methods, play calling (and) things of that nature.”
A solid piece of the core will be made up of senior football players Coleman Scott, Ethan Siler and Bryce Murphy, as the Wildcats look to improve on last season’s 9-18 record.
“From football they will bring mental toughness and the will to compete,” Branscum said. “In order to have a successful basketball season we must combine those traits with consistently executing on both ends of the floor.”
Siler scored 7.9 points and had 2.4 rebounds per game. Scott scored 7.6 points with 5.4 assists and 3 rebounds per game.
Senior Connor Johnson is the other key piece that is coming back a year after earning all-district honors. The 5’9” guard scored 9.8 points per game to go with 2 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.
Neosho will also have several players stepping up into larger roles this year. Those players include a trio of guards in 6’1” Brady Wise, 5’11” Zach Jennings and 5’7” Yeej Lee. Senior Bryan Banks will also see time at a guard position after transferring in from Enid, Okla.
Luke Kibler will man the paint in his junior season.
Effort each night will be key for a team that will be a bit undersized most nights.
“My expectations for this year are that we compete every night and play at a high level consistently. We can do that by committing to our defensive goals and valuing the ball on offense,” Branscum said. “Sound decision making by our guards will be key in having success. Finishing defensive possessions with rebounds will be huge as well. Murphy, Siler, and Kibler must rebound at a high rate this season for us to win.”
Neosho opens the season on Nov. 22 at home against Aurora. The Wildcats then take a break until travelling to Monett on Dec. 6. The Carthage Invitational, Pittsburg Four-States Border Classic and home Neosho Holiday Classic are on the tournament slate for the Wildcats.
Branscum thinks his team is ready to turn some heads this season.
“Our program has been through a rough stretch,” Branscum said. “We are looking for this to be a breakout year for our team. Our players have put in a lot of work and are hungry to compete.”