By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
As he enters his first season as Fair Grove’s head coach, Cale Ramsey is eager to see more from a promising varsity roster.
Fair Grove returns its top three scorers – David Oplotnik, Cole Gilpin and Kyle Stacey – from a 17-win team.
“With it being my first year, I have only been able to see a small sample of what my boys can do, but from the little I’ve seen, I’ve been very impressed,” Ramsey said. “We have a team that is long and athletic with a very high basketball IQ.”
Oplotnik, a junior forward, led Fair Grove in scoring (14.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.2 rebounds per game) last season.
But it’s his work ethic that stands out, Ramsey said.
“David is a hard-nosed, out-work-everyone type of player,” Ramsey said. “David’s hard work has turned him into a great outside shooter and his tall stature allows him to also play inside as well.”
Gilpin contributes in multiple areas. As a sophomore, he averaged 14 points, 6.5 rebounds and over four assists per game.
“Cole has a very high basketball IQ,” Ramsey said. “He sees the floor really well and puts his teammates in great spots to score the ball. Cole is also a tough matchup for opponents because of his ability to shoot the ball and finish at the rim.”
Twin brothers Kyle (12 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 4.5 assists per game) and Kam (7.8 ppg) Stacey bring energy and intensity to the floor.
“Kyle has the ability to finish around the rim as well as knock down outside shot. That makes him tough for opponents to guard,” Ramsey said. “Kam takes on any challenges that are thrown his way. Offensively, he moves great without the basketball and can also shoot the ball from anywhere on the floor.”
The Eagles finished 17-11 overall last season after losing to Strafford in the Class 3 District 11 tournament semifinals.
Fair Grove graduated just two seniors from that squad: Garrett Potter and Brian Carroll.
Ramsey was an assistant coach at Fair Grove during the 2012-13 season. He followed that with assistant coaching stints at Republic and Rogersville.
Also back this year for Fair Grove are Josh Thompson, Alex Ince and Ambrose Broyles.
“Josh’s awareness, athletic ability and speed makes him a valuable asset for our team this year on both sides,” Ramsey said. “Alex is a big body that puts himself in great spots offensively and will be a big presence in the paint defensively.
“Ambrose can post and score around the basket but can also step out and knock down the 15-foot jump shot. He has good awareness of his surroundings and sees the floor well.”
New names to watch include Elijah Phifer, Dominick Hoskins, Bryce Thornton and Darin Oplotnik.
Phifer missed all of last season with a knee injury, but Ramsey thinks he can help the Eagles in the backcourt this season. Hoskins offers speed to go with size and strength.
Ramsey praised the toughness and competitiveness of Thornton and Darin Oplotnik.
“With the length and athleticism of our team, we will be able to experiment with different types of schemes both on the offensive and defensive side of the ball to see what fits our style of play best,” Ramsey said.
Fair Grove begins the regular season November 20 at Hillcrest.