By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The McDonald County boys basketball team searched for its identity for most of the 2018-19 season.
The team went 5-20, falling 41-35 to Webb City in the Class 4 District 12 semifinals.
Webb City native Brandon Joines is in his first season as head coach of the Mustangs, after previously spending time in Festus, Mo., at Jefferson High School, as the girls head coach.
“Here we are,” Joines said. “Every move had its purpose.”
The Mustangs graduated four players, most notably 6’5” forward Cooper Reece (leading scorer at 20 points per game).
Reece was named all-district and second team all-conference last season as a senior.
However, the team returns 6’4” senior forward/center Cade Smith.
Smith averaged seven points and four rebounds per game last season.
“Got some size to him and a little bit of muscle. He is going to be expected to be a focal point and stay healthy. Kind of be a leader [who] has a strong head on his shoulders,” Joines said of Smith. “He can do some stuff.”
Also back in the fold this season is senior Cale Adamson: “He is a hustle, grit guy. He received the team hustle award last season. The same energy and intensity will be components of his leadership this year,” Joines said. “He is going to get after it. I expect the same type of leadership. He is willing to guard and pick up anybody.”
Also back are seniors Colliar Gottfried, John Howard and Nevin Price, as well as junior Jackson Clarkson.
The offense last year primarily was predicated on Reece’s play in the paint, but this season, the ball will be spread throughout the roster.
So, under Joines, the offense will be more opportunistic and hit all corners of the floor.
“Clarkson is a grit guy inside,” Joines said. “Colliar has some size, Howard can spread it outside, and Nevin will come in and give some energy. We have some options in the upperclassmen, but it is going to the leadership and experience of having played some.”
Players to watch include: Adamson and sophomore guards Cole Martin and Pierce Harmon.
“They started to get some varsity time at the end of last year,” Joines said of the sophomore duo. “They hopefully will keep it rolling with us.”
As for Harmon: “He often takes the helm of the offense.”
Defense will be key in second-chance opportunities and equal-opportunity scoring on offense.
Joines said he looks for the stingy defensive effort to create offense.
Said Joines: “We are going to pick up people and play four quarters of hard-nosed basketball. We have to get stops on the defensive end. We will have to turn it into transition in order to build some confidence. Getting transition baskets are going to make things a lot easier. Once you start getting a few, then the offense starts getting in rhythm. We are going to have a lot of movement and confidence in our shooting and want to spread out the scoring. If you are building for the future, you have to get those future people to have that confidence. I am a big confidence guy.”
The Mustangs made it through the offseason without any injuries and are ready for the season, Joines added.
“When you have a five-win team you are taking over, you don’t want any other issues like that,” Joines said.
The home opener is scheduled for Dec. 3 against Aurora.
The Mustangs travel to Carl Junction three days later.