By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Replacing a Hall of Fame head coach is never easy, especially when that coach is Terry Writer.
But, Mansfield may have found the perfect replacement in longtime assistant coach Cody Shelton.
Shelton spent 14 years next to Writer’s side and will now slide over one chair to assume the top spot.
He inherits a program that has won at least 20 games in each of the last five seasons.
“Coach Writer established Mansfield into a great basketball program,” said Shelton. “Following him will not be easy, but being able to work with him for so long can only help our program. Building good relationships with our players will help establish the type of culture we want in this community.
“Terry was such a blessing for our school, basketball program, and community. I have been fortunate to work with him for the last 14 years and I benefited myself from being around him. The transition should be smooth from Coach Writer to me, since most of these players have played for me in Junior High and on the Junior Varsity. I know our players strengths and weaknesses and hopefully we can come together after the change of coaches.”
It’ll be nearly a complete rebuild for Shelton as the Lions return just one starter and one letterwinner in Hesston Gray and Arly Miller.
Gray, a 6-foot-4 forward, averaged 10.7 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior. He will shoulder an even larger scoring load this season.
“Hesston Gray will be our do a little of everything type of player,” said Shelton. “He is an aggressive forward that scores and rebounds at a high rate. His usage will increase with the loss of so many seniors. We will look to him make a play on both sides of the floor in those critical moments.”
Miller was a backup guard last season, but will also see an uptick in production this winter.
“Arly Miller is a senior that will bring leadership and shooting to our varsity lineup” said Shelton. “He is a hard worker that should help with the scoring load.”
Senior Kaleb Corder will bring toughness and rebounding to the roster. Junior Troy Kelley will likely slide into a backcourt role due to his ball handling and defensive ability.
Tom Emerick, Chade Noble, and Chase Cartwright will see significant minutes as well.
Mansfield will have the challenge of not only adjusting to new roles and the intensity of varsity basketball. They’ll have to do it while also adjusting to some new concepts in Shelton’s system.
How quickly they do that will dictate the Lions success.
“The speed and strength of the game will be the most difficult part of transitioning for our newcomers,” said Shelton. “Being able to contribute each night and being consistent will be the toughest part.
“This team will have to grow quickly throughout the season to compete in our conference and district. It will be difficult with so many new faces, but also a great opportunity for these players. Our goal is to compete for the conference and district each year.”
Mansfield will open the 2019-20 season at home on Nov. 26 against Forsyth.