By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
After winning 13 games in the previous two seasons combined, last year’s 13-win, district runner-up finish marked the continued growth of Lebanon Basketball under Adam Thornhill.
While there have been growing pains – including eight losses by single digits – Thornhill is extremely excited about the direction of his program in his fifth season.
“Every loss is an opportunity to learn,” said Thornhill. “We grew from those narrow defeats and the loss in the district championship game.”
“I love the progress our program has made, true culture takes a great deal of time to build and the mentality that our guys have displayed this offseason shows that the pillars of our program are being lived out.”
Lebanon must replace four seniors that have helped embody those pillars and grow the program, but the future is in good hands.
Sophomore Quenton Shelton returns after one of the best Class 5 freshman campaigns in state history.
Shelton averaged 18.2 points, making him one of just a few freshmen to ever score 500 points for a big-class program as a freshman. His 89 3-point FGs is also a new Lebanon record.
That led to Shelton receiving All-Ozark Conference honors.
After spending the summer with MOKAN Elite, Thornhill believes the 6-foot-2 guard could take another step forward this winter.
“Q is a year older and more experienced,” said Thornhill. “He’ll be asked to do a lot for his team this season. Offensively he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot as we look to take advantage of his shooting ability but also his ability facilitate offense for himself and others. His leadership skills are improving everyday as he takes that role on as well.”
Lebanon doesn’t have a ton of size, but in a conference lacking big men overall, junior Dawson Zimdars is one of the few true rim protectors in the Ozark Conference. After having a season to acclimate to the speed of varsity basketball, Thornhill is excited about what is ahead for the 6-foot-6 junior.
“Dawson had a great sophomore year and we expect him to have an even bigger junior season,” said Thornhill. “He’s grown some and put on some weight which will help his game on both ends.”
Seniors Jalen Jones, Terron Sizemore and Will Richardson are back, providing leadership on the perimeter for Lebanon.
Juniors Cooper Hudson and Max Schooler will also be in the rotation.
Thornhill is also excited about the growth of some newcomers.
Junior Cooper Hudson gives Lebanon an athletic wing defender that will likely get the task of guarding the opponent’s best scorer each night.
Sophomore bigs Jordan Lewis and Kolby Dorris will add immediate frontcourt depth with their ability to both score and defend. Classmate Ethan Christal will also find minutes in the backcourt.
Lebanon is young, which is a problem many Class 5 programs in the Ozarks are facing. Thornhill is hoping this group can learn on the fly, which could have the Jackets again playing for a district championship.
“We potentially could put a very talented but very young, inexperienced team on the court this winter,” said Thornhill. “Our ability to learn from early mistakes, accept responsibility and grow will be vital.”