By Pat Dailey (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Expectations out of Mountain View-Liberty are that the Eagles will feature the same defensive schemes as in years past, but will offer a completely different look offensively.
They’re also not nearly as tall or seasoned as coach Brock Kenaga’s bunch was last season.
“We’re a completely different team than last year, when we were senior-dominated,” Kenaga said. “We had five seniors, four of them started and the other come off the bench. We were extremely big last year. We still have one big kid coming back who saw varsity time last year. But this group is going to be more guard-oriented.”
With more guards, he hopes, come fewer turnovers.
“We struggled last year sometimes versus pressure because we didn’t handle the ball extremely well,” Kenaga said. “By being more guard-oriented, we should be able to handle pressure a bit better, move the ball better and not have as many turnovers.”
The Eagles totaled 335 assists and 331 turnovers, or about 13 a game.
On the other end of the court, Mountain View-Liberty’s defense will be out to create chaos, per usual.
“In the past, I’ve had an attacking style defense. We pressed a lot and ran lot of trapping defenses,” Kenaga said. “That creates some fast-break opportunities and easy buckets. That’s the style we like to play. I don’t see that changing much. We’ll stick with what we do.”
As Kenaga mentioned, the Eagles don’t have much experience. The lone returning starter from last season is Zach Stretch. His nightly norms last season included 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.5 steals.
“Zach is a good scorer and a good rebounder,” Kenaga said. “He’s long and lanky and jumps well. He’s played since he was a sophomore. He loves basketball. He’s very intelligent and understands what is going on. The other kids will be leaning on him for experience.”
Mountain View-Liberty can lean on center Caden Daniels in the post. The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder figures to be quite the presence in the paint. He averaged 6.8 points and 3.4 rebounds last season.
“He played a few varsity minutes per game last year. So he has some experience,” Kenaga said. “He shoots he ball well for a big man. He can step out some and knock down shots. At 265 pounds, most people don’t try to get physical with him. And he comes from a basketball family.
Daniels’ cousin, Derek Daniels, starred for the Eagles in the 2000s and went on to an All-America career at College of the Ozarks. He’s now an assistant coach at Rogersville. Derek’s younger brother, Kegan, could work his way into the Kenaga’s rotation.
Stretch, Deion Lee and Jaris Acklin will assume the great majority of Liberty’s ball-handling duties. Lee is a freshman, Acklin a junior and Stretch a senior.
Kenaga foresees the Eagles making a run at a winning record and supremacy in the South Central Association. They were 13-12 last season.
“Expectations are pretty high,” he said. “We will be a competitive team night in and night out. I expect to be in the top part of our conference, like every year. We’ll be an exciting team.”