By Scott Vanscoy (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Kevin Smith (135-136) returns to the Crane Pirates as head coach for his second year and his 24th year total. Last year, the Pirates went 12-15 and 3-4 in the SWCL conference; not a bad year, but not one that the Pirates expected.
Even though Crane lost Braydon Cook, Colton Elder and Wyatt Vaught to graduation, they return several that can help them win.
The key player for Crane will be Tyler Campbell. Campbell was named all-district, all-conference, and the Crane Tournament MVP. The junior point guard averaged 14 points per game, and pulled down 4 rebounds per game. He also had 4.2 assists a game, and almost 2.5 steals a game. Campbell will be hard to guard and most teams will play their best defender against him.
Helping Campbell will be junior forward Jacob Woodward. Woodward averaged 5 points a game and 6 rebounds a night. Also looking to increase his playing time is senior Bryston Branstetter. Branstetter was a part-time starter last year and will be looking to improve on his almost 5 points a game average.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Smith will be fighting for more varsity minutes this season. Smith average five points a game in limited action last year. Senior Colby Killman and junior Wes Branstetter are returning letter winners that will be pushing for varsity time.
The Pirates will also see two new players to the varsity program; senior Wyatt Cloyd (Center) and sophomore Brecken Vaught (Guard).
Last year Crane battled through injuries that really hurt the Pirates most of the year. Despite the injuries, they still had some success as they fought their way to the District Championship game. These Pirates would like to compete for conference and district titles, which is entirely possible with this group of players.
“We have several players that will be competing for time,” said Smith. “I like our combination of guards and posts. I think our guard play will be strong and we will have a good presence inside.”
With the two previous conference champions, Clever and Forsyth, leaving the conference, the conference title will be up for grabs. Several strong teams will be vying for the title and Crane looks to be one of them.
“This season I think we will have an exciting team with a lot of good pieces for a solid team,” said Smith. “I think we will compete in the conference very well. We already know the conference will be tough, top to bottom.”