By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Jeremy Land is encouraged by the progress his Monett Cubs made last year, even though the record didn’t reflect that.
“We have a group of young men who want to continue to take our program in the right direction,” said Land, who enters his sixth season at the helm. “This year’s seniors took some lumps as sophomores and improved greatly last year. They are ready to leave their stamp on our program.”
The Cubs ended the 2017-2018 with a 9-17 overall record, going 3-4 in the Big 8 Conference before falling 46-35 to Aurora in the Class 4 District 10 Tournament.
Key losses from last year’s squad include: Garrett Tharp, who was a two-year starter at guard. “His outside shooting and leadership will be missed;” forward Cameron Johnson, who “had a great ability to protect the rim inside;” Zach Blevins, a starting forward, who “did a great job setting the tone on defense;” Jedd Anderson, a guard who performed well off the bench; and Jake Bouchard, guard/forward, who “always provided a lot of energy for our team off the bench.”
The cupboard is not bare, as Monett returns a great deal of experience for 2018-2019 with three starters and six lettermen, which includes four seniors and two juniors.
• Gavin Carr – 5-10 senior guard – averaged 14.2 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.1 steals. He was a first-team All-Big 8 and All-District selection. “Gavin sets the tone defensively, distributes the ball to teammates, while also taking on a big load of the scoring.”
• Jackson Spencer – 5-7 senior guard – averaged 13.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.3 spg, and was an All-Big 8 and All-District Honorable Mention pick. “Jackson provides a lot of energy for our team.”
• Alim Miftari – 6-3 forward – averaged 5.0 ppg, 3.7 rpg. “Alim provides a physical presence inside and played well in his first year of varsity action.”
• Clayton Kaiser – 5-10 guard – averaged 3.2 ppg, 2 rpg, 1 apg. “I look for him to contribute more scoring and consistency on defense.”
• Trevon Price – 6-2 junior forward – “Plays with a high motor. He can be a very good defender and offensive rebounder.”
• Cole McCollough – 6-0 junior guard – “Will compete for minutes at guard.”
“I am blessed to work with a great group of young men who play with great effort,” Land said. “They understand the system and know what is expected of them. We had a great summer and want to continue to take a step forward this year.”
Land also has several newcomers who will look to compete for varsity minutes this season.
• Cameron George – 6-2 sophomore – “good basketball IQ.”
• Eli Stephens – 6-3 senior – moved in from Colorado. “Can hit the open shot, while also providing good defense.”
• Bryce Erwin – 5-10 junior – moved in from Rogersville. “One of our better shooters who will be able to stretch the defense.”
• Isaac Hilton – 5-10 sophomore – “Solid defender and has a solid offensive game.”
• Doss Nation – 6-1 sophomore – “Good length and capable of hitting the open shot.”
• Gavin Austin – 5-10 junior
• Gavin Bailey – 6-2 junior
Monett will host a jamboree on Nov. 16, which will include Pierce City and Verona, before opening the season in the Forsyth Tournament on Nov. 26.
“Playing in the Big 8, our boys realize you have to be at your best every night if you want to win,” Land said. “Our goal is to continue to improve as the season goes on, so we can be playing our best basketball as we enter district play.”