By Justin Sampson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The 2017-2018 season carried growing pains for Craig Campbell and his first foray into a Class 5 schedule with Camdenton. The Lakers finished 4-21, losing a season-high 12 games in the middle portion of the year.
However, Camdenton put a positive delay on the offseason by winning its first district game in four years. That alone has Campbell and the Lakers feeling better about their position heading into this winter.
“I definitely feel like I am more prepared,” said Campbell. “Last year carried a lot of learning experiences. Knowing the kids ahead of time this year allows me to build my idea of what we’re going to do prior to the season rather than a month in.”
The Lakers do not lack in experience as they expect to litter the roster with over a half-dozen seniors. That includes four starters: Kelton Virtue, Viterio Anderson, Luke Eveland, and Keegan Ford.
Virtue was the biggest contributor of the bunch as a junior, averaging 10 points and 5.5 rebounds per night. He should be eager to return to the lineup after missing the final 10 games of the year due to illness.
Anderson added 8.2 points and 3.9 boards per night after transferring in from Poplar Bluff midway through his junior season. Campbell expects him to continue as the catalyst for the team’s energy level and is looking forward to him to play a full season in purple.
Juniors Paxton DeLaurent and Brandon Pasley also return as key contributors. DeLaurent, having put together possibly the best quarterback campaign in school history, also brings back a team-high 11 points per game to go with 4.8 rebounds.
Pasley will reprise his role as a bulldog for opponents after landing on the All-Ozarks Conference Defensive Team as a sophomore.
“They’re all about the same type of player,” said Campbell.” They’re 6’0” to 6’4”, can handle a little, and shoot the ball well. They’re interchangeable, which is nice.”
Campbell is perfectly fine with playing a lot of similar body types. He views it as a luxury that enables him to send different units out on a nightly basis.
“My plan is to play 10 guys on varsity consistently. The top eight will probably play the same amount of minutes and the top seven will all get a chance to start at some point in the year.”
Campbell hopes more experience leads to more poise. The Lakers averaged just 53.5 points per game, due largely to mishandling the ball. Turnovers impacted them late in games on many occasions and their final record reflected that.
“We averaged almost 20 turnovers per game last year. A lot of that had to do with inexperience. We had 12 games where we were tied or had the lead with a minute and a half left and would have one or two turnovers that would cost us the game. I think that will improve.”
If it does, Camdenton could have the versatility and depth to poke its nose back into the upper echelon of the Ozark Conference. The players now that and that fact has fueled maybe the biggest difference: the one between the ears.
“They expect to win this year. Last year, just the fact they were in some of the games we were was a surprise to them. Now, it makes them mad when they lose, which is good to see. We lost three games as a varsity group all summer. That’s what you want to see as a coach who is trying to build a lasting program.”