El Dorado Springs boys basketball will have an opportunity it hasn’t had in a long time this year, as the Bulldogs move from being an independent and into the Ozark Conference.
“The conference will be great for our kids,” El Dorado Springs head coach Joel Braden said. “In previous years, the time after we played our last tournament and before districts was a difficult stretch of basketball. We were playing games but really just looking forward to district play. Now there is more meaning and motivation for those late season games. The conference will provide an opportunity to increase interest in home games and create and enhance rivalries with other schools.”
The Bulldogs finished 10-15 last year, but bring back a strong group of players led by senior Shelby McKinney. McKinney led El Dorado Springs in scoring (12.8 ppg) and rebounding (7.2 rpg) last season.
“Shelby is a big athlete that works extremely hard. He tries to get every offensive rebound and is hard to block out. As a sophomore, he did most of his scoring from offensive rebounds. As a junior, he added some post moves and so was able to score a little more. He has worked hard on being able to face up to the basket and shoot and drive. This should make him even more of a scoring threat his senior year,” Braden said.
Juniors Derek Hayes and Brayden Housh along with senior Trey Babcock will be impactful returning players. Hayes started at point guard last year and chipped in 3 points 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Housh started half the games last season and brings strong defense and rebounding. Braden will look for him to expand on his 6.3 points per game from last year. Babcock will be a three-year starter this season. He averaged 7 points and 2.2 assists per game last season.
Senior Donovan Collins will see an expanded varsity role. The 6’6 post has the ability to score inside and shoot the three. Classmates Tanner Witt, Orlando Guerrero and Bryce Walker all will have an impact. Preston Robison will bring defense and playmaking ability in his second high school season.
Braden is stressing vauling the basketball to his team after averaging 19 turnovers per game last season.
“We have to turn the ball over less and score a little more,” Braden said. “We had some kids really work to improve their shooting in the offseason and hopefully it pays off. We turned the ball over too much last year to beat good teams.”
If the Bulldogs can control the turnovers, Braden expects his team to be able to continue adding wins as they have each of the last few seasons.
“The past three years the basketball team has won 6, 8, and last year 10 games. We hope to continue to improve and hopefully, that will show with another improvement in our win total,” Braden said. “Our schedule will be more difficult this year with the addition of the conference games but should also be more exciting also.”
El Dorado Springs opens the season on Nov. 20 at home against Adrian.