By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
To say that Preston Hyde’s first two years at Greenfield have been successful would be a bit of an understatement.
The Wildcats are coming off of a 24-5 season that saw them run the table in the SRVC and lose to eventual Class 1 state champ Walnut Grove in the district finals.
While he feels like his team peaked a little early, Hyde could see the familiarity of his kids in his system take hold last season.
“I do believe the players know what is expected in practice and understand the system we run very well,” said Hyde. “The biggest adjustment was getting them to understand my terminology of the game. Once we got a grasp on that, I was able to turn them loose. These kids work extremely hard every day. It is a privilege to coach them and they make it easy to look forward to practice each day.”
Greenfield will now look to build on that success this season and it all starts with senior guard Marcus Wright.
The reigning SRVC Player of the Year returns after averaging 19.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3.6 steals. Wright will be one of the top guards in the Ozarks this season.
“Marcus has a great basketball IQ,” said Hyde. “Every year I have coached him, he has developed a different part of his game. I think what makes him dynamic is how good he is in the open court. He makes great reads and is creative around the rim. Now that he has developed a perimeter game, he can get to the rim easier than what he could in previous years. Last season, he made everyone around him better. If he can continue to do that, his ceiling will be high.”
After graduating three starters, 6-foot-5 senior Colin White will step into an even bigger role for the Wildcats. White averaged 10 points, 6.3 rebounds and a pair of blocks last season, averaging a double-double in his final 10 games.
“Colin really played well down the stretch for us last year,” said Hyde. “I think he really showed what he is capable of in the conference championship game. He is relentless. There isn’t a coach in southwest Missouri that wouldn’t want him on their team. What he does for us at the small school level is huge. There are only a few games that we play that has a player who can match his size and athleticism. He really separates us from many teams.”
All-state catcher Sawyer Dodd also returns after averaging five points last year. Hyde believes he’s the best shooter on the team and could be due for a breakout season after a great offseason of work.
The key to Greenfield’s season could rest in the ability of its newcomers to acclimate to varsity basketball. The Wildcats averaged 71 PPG last year and a perfect 10-0 when scoring at least 70 points.
It’ll be imperative to have newcomers establish themselves as scoring threats to recreate the element of balance that Greenfield had a year ago.
“These kids have competed in practice for the past two years against the senior class we had last year and the one we have this year,” said Hyde. “I think we are athletic for a school our size and we want to use that to our advantage. We have a lot of offense to replace, but have the tools to fill them.”
Juniors Gage Burns (5’10), Trenton Wilson (6’), Seth Trask (6’2) and Marshfield move-in Brayton Ipock will all figure into the rotation. Sophomores Daunte Stafford and Levi Matthews are also battling for minutes.
Hyde is especially encouraged by the development of junior Tyrell Stafford after being the leading receiver on the football field this fall. Stafford is a long, 6-foot-3 athlete that could be a matchup nightmare in the SRVC.
Many of those players made up Greenfield’s JV, which lost four games all of last year.
This is a group that has seen success regardless of the sport.
Not only is Greenfield hungry for back-to-back SRVC titles for the first time ever, the Wildcats would also like to end the nearly three decade long Final Four drought.
Lockwood and Pierce City, both Class 2 district champions, return several key pieces from last season. Greenfield will not only see them in the same week, but the game could also be the difference between the Cats getting the No. 1 seed in districts and repeating as conference champions.
“We have both of these games at home this year and we will need to defend our home court to be successful this season,” said Hyde. “Execution of our game plan every night will be crucial. Our style will differ a little from the past two seasons as we have to adapt with our personnel. There will be some growing pains, but these kids are tough.
“They know how to handle adversity and want the big stage. These guys played in a district championship in football, basketball, and baseball last year and came up short in all three of them. Hopefully we learned some lessons and can capitalize on that this season.”
Greenfield will open the 2017-18 season at Everton on Nov. 20.