By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Hillcrest basketball will see a new, familiar face on the court this season, as former Hornet Jordan Fielding takes over head coaching duties.
While this season marks his first as a head coach, Fielding is no stranger to the Ozark Conference. The Hillcrest graduate spent five years as an assistant with Kickapoo before joining former Hornets head coach Joel Brown for last season’s campaign.
Hillcrest finished 8-18, falling to Rogersville in the district semifinals.
“Last year we had high expectations for our season, but failed to meet those expectations,” Fielding said. “We struggled to guard and score consistently. On top of that we never really gelled very well as a team. The talent and athletic ability was there, but we never got over that hump that was in front of us all season.”
Fielding’s first order of business will be finding replacements for a quintet of graduated seniors, including Brenden Weaver, Branon Menifee, Laterrian Jarmin Jarmin, Samson Cochran and Brock Schaffitzel.
Weaver will continue his basketball career this season at Evangel University.
“Brenden was a player who was a big part of our program for four years,” Fielding said. “He set a great example for our younger guys about how to show up to practice/games and work hard every day. We will miss his hard work and leadership.”
Despite the significant roster turnover, the talent cupboard is far from barren this season.
The Hornets will be led by a pair of dynamic junior guards in 6-foot Chrishawn Haggard (9.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg) and 6-foot-1 Maleek Herron (9.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg).
Both players could be on the cusp of breakout seasons, according to Fielding.
“Chrishawn is a capable shooter from all areas of the court and can get to the rim as well,” Fielding said. “He makes a commitment to guard, as well, which will be a big emphasis of our team this year. Maleek can shoot it consistently and is a great finisher around the rim. His pace of play will really help our offense be effective this year.”
With only a pair of returning players, Hillcrest’s roster will feature a host of new players — two seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen — eager to challenge for varsity minutes.
Jordan Ausler, Anthony Rose, Aiden Tummons, Jordan Leed, DeeVon Braxton, Lemarkus Miller, Devin Oliver, Cole Griesemer and Cooper Huett could all make an impact at the varsity level this season.
While Hillcrest’s roster will lacking experience, Fielding is optimistic heading into the season.
“I am excited for the season ahead,” Fielding said. “I think we have a great group of guys, both young and old, who are hungry and excited to prove themselves this year. We only have two returning lettermen/starters back, so there will be a lot of opportunity for our young guys to make a difference in our season.”
With so many inexperienced players, Hillcrest’s attack — at least initially — will rely heavily on its dynamic guard duo.
“Our biggest strength heading into the season is our guard play,” Fielding said. “Crishawn and Maleek are two good guards who know how to play the game, can shoot it, penetrate and get others involved as well. Add in some of our newcomers with those two, and I like the lineups that can be put out on the court.”
For the Hornets to succeed in a challenging Ozark Conference and compete for a district title, Fielding believes it all boils down to consistent defensive effort.
“In order for us to have a successful season we have to guard on a consistent basis each game,” Fielding said. “Once we buy into guarding every night, I think that we will be a tough team to beat.”
Hillcrest opens its season Nov. 26 at Fair Grove.