By Calen VanNess
After coming within one game of winning a district title last year, head coach Jonathan Winslow virtually has an entirely new team to lead the next wave of success at Bakersfield.
Although the Lions are coming off a 21-8 season and a conference title (4-0 in the White River Conference), they will have to do it with an almost entirely new team. Bakersfield lost nine players to graduation, including all-state standout Wyatt Summers. They are also losing Joe Vaughan, who took home all-district honors last season.
“The core of this group had been together since eighth grade, and they had consistently improved from seven [wins their freshman year] to 21 wins their [senior year],” said Winslow of his graduated players. “They did an outstanding job of raising expectations for our program and have left behind an expectation for us to compete, work hard, and do what it takes to be successful.”
Returning for the Lions are juniors Derik Murphy, Nathan Scott and Doug Tefft.
“Derik is an excellent ball handler and point guard who should provide a steady presence on the floor and is a good three-point shooter,” said Winslow. “Nathan has really developed as a player. He has gotten stronger and should be a presence defensively blocking shots and rebounding. Offensively he can score in the post and step out and shoot the ball [from mid-range] and three-point range. Doug is very athletic and sees the floor very well.”
Winslow understands that there will be some growing pains along the way, but he believes his team will fight through them and ultimately be successful.
“We will be a lot less experienced [since] we lost several kids who had started for multiple years, and we don’t have much varsity experience returning,” said Winslow. “We are talented but inexperienced, but once we adjust, I think we should be very competitive. We still have some decent size, so I hope to be able to play inside first, which should open up shots for our shooters.”
Newcomers to the team this year include juniors Jordan Kuk, Brevin Bales and Brett Foster; sophomores Reece Anstine, Hunter Bentley and Tristan Morris; and freshmen Cole Summers and Brady Ingalsbe.
The new varsity players will be expected to be ready to play right away.
“Cole [Summers] is very athletic and sees the floor well,” said Winslow. “He has the opportunity to contribute heavily as a freshman. Hunter [Bentley] has a chance to be an impact player for us as a sophomore. He was our leading scorer on JV as a freshman and has a very high I.Q. and can score from multiple spots on the floor.”
With so many new faces and players with different strengths, Winslow knows he may have to change his offensive philosophy to an extent, but he still feels confident in his team’s ability.
“My goal is for our identity to be built on toughness and to compete every time we step on the floor,” said Winslow.
Bakersfield will open the season at home against Yellville-Summit on Nov. 18.