By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Landon Cornish is entering fifth year at Parkview and has one of his most underrated groups at Parkview.
The Vikings ended last season at 13-13 with six of those losses coming by six points are fewer.
Ty Freeman’s injury dominated the headlines, but it allowed this group an opportunity to grow and develop to similar roles they’ll play in this season thanks to a baptism by fire.
“Tyem’s injury was really hard on everyone, it took a huge mental toll and honestly you can’t really explain how many different things it changed for all of us,” said Cornish. “It brought us all closer together and forced us to grow up earlier than we had planned. We had a loaded schedule and just had to go compete. Our guys are really excited for this season.”
Parkview returns three full-time starters and a partial starter from last year, making them one of the most experienced Class 5 teams in the Ozarks.
It all starts with four-year starter Dontae Taylor. As a junior he averaged 14.6 points, five rebounds and 2.2 steals. He was an All-Ozark Conference and All-District 12 performer.
“Dontae was forced into more of a scoring role last year because we had to have it,” said Cornish. “He does as good a job as anyone at making his teammates better, with the experience or other guys gained last year and their improvement, I think he will have a great year and be one of the leaders in assists in the area. He’s averaged 12-14 points a game the last two years, if he can do that and get 7-8 assists per game then we will be in good shape.”
Senior guard Nakai Johnson also returns after averaging 10 points and 3.3 rebounds last year. He knocked down 51 3-pointers last year and Cornish has been impressed by his intangibles this offseason.
“Kai has gotten a lot stronger and over the summer became a much better rebounder on both ends of the floor,” said Cornish. “His leadership and competitiveness really excites me this year.”
What makes this team potentially so dynamic is a loaded junior class.
Anthony Green is a 6-foot-3 junior wing that averaged 6.3 points and 5.4 rebounds as a sophomore. He’s been receiving varsity minutes since his freshman season with a big-time frame and great athleticism. Classmate Trevon Brazile is a 6-foot-7 wing that continues to mature physically. He currently holds an offer from Montana State.
“Trevon and Anthony both have the ability to be game changers, when they are locked in and motivated it’s fun,” said Cornish. “Being able to play hard for four quarters and staying mentally engaged is the biggest key for both of them.”
Cornish is also excited about the growth of sophomore guard Elijah Whitley. The 6-foot-2 guard started five games as a freshman.
“He has improved in one offseason more than anyone I’ve had before,” said Cornish. “Grew and put on some good muscle, has worked nonstop on his game. He can get to the rim, mid-range pull-up, and shoot the 3. I think he will be one of the biggest newcomers to the varsity scene in the area. He is a great kid, I am really, really excited about his potential.”
Division One football prospect JaVeo Toliver is a 6-foot-5, 255lb senior that will bring a physical, athletic presence to the floor for the Vikings. Junior guard Jaylen Jackson is another great athlete that will be a pace-changing guard when in the game.
Cornish is also excited about his newcomers.
Royden Slifer is a 6-foot-3 senior that adds depth and toughness. Freshmen guards Kevin Parker Jr. and Amarre Clark will also compete for immediate playing time.
After Freeman went down last year, most in basketball circles counted this group out. All they did was bounce back by making the finals at the Blue and Gold, going toe-to-toe with Final Four teams Rogersville and Springfield Catholic, as well as beating a Camdenton team on the road that went on to win a district championship.
With so much experience and so many potentially explosive players back, this is a group eager to prove themselves against the elite of the Ozarks.
“Guys are going to have to buy in to doing whatever it takes for us to be successful as a team, we have a lot of talented individuals but playing together as a team is going to be the biggest key,” said Cornish. “If we value possessions offensively and rebound well on the defensive end I think we will have a chance to be very competitive. I do think this group is ready to create their own identity for sure.”
Parkview will open the 2019-20 season at home against Rogersville on Nov. 26.