By Calen VanNess
After finishing the 2015-2016 season with a 15-12 record (4-5 in the Ozark Conference) and a first round loss in district play, the Zizzers and head coach Kevin Smith will look to improve upon last year, but they will have to do it with an almost entirely new cast.
Among those that graduated were Christian Robbins, Chase Riley, Zak Adkisson and Gerard Dietrich. Smith knows it will be difficult to replace what they brought to the team night in and night out.
“We lost five players that were very good for us,” said Smith. “They were a huge part of our varsity for two years.”
Although the Zizzers will be starting an entirely different cast this season, four players will be returning to the 15-win squad. They include seniors Dalton Ross and Justin Nichols and juniors Mitchell Mahan and Landry Randolph. Smith credits Ross for bringing shooting and leadership to the team, Mahan is an excellent ball handler and passer and Randolph will be used as a long-range threat.
Senior newcomer John Mulford will be an excellent addition to the team as he will provide athleticism and a knack for being able to get to the rim. Also new to the team are Jay Talton, Austin Wood, Camdon Murphy, Mason Nelson, Clay Butler, Garel Mcinley and Garrett Warren.
Smith knows that losing so many players to graduation will not make for an easy time in the tough Ozark conference, but he has confidence in his group of players this season.
“Our guard play will be a strength for us,” said Smith. “This team will be a much smaller team, and we will have to change some things we do toward our personnel, but I think we have a team that will be fast and that will be aggressive in the open floor. They will be fun to watch for our fans.”
Even though Smith believes his team can use their quickness and skills to push the ball on offense this season, he feels that the real emphasis will come on the other side of the ball.
“We will be a defensive-oriented team this year,” said Smith.
Always the type of coach to respect other teams’ talents, Smith understands that his team can never overlook the talent of the other teams in the conference and district.
“I think the conference race will be tough,” said Smith. “We have such good coaches and teams in the conference you have to be ready every game. The district will be very solid from top to bottom. There will not be a clear-cut choice with these very good programs.”
West Plains will begin play in the 56th Annual Forsyth Invitational on Nov. 28.