By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Licking basketball has had its share of success recently, posting at least 15 wins in seven straight seasons, and last year’s 22-3 finish marked the third straight 20+ mark.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, area heavyweight Mountain Grove has advanced past the Class 3 District 10 bracket in two of those years, and the Panthers notched a second-straight final four appearance last season.
In his ninth season, Licking head coach Ben Glasgow is ready for the challenge.
First up will be replacing a pair of all-district players and nearly 45 points of scoring per contest.
Glasgow’s graduates include Nathan Wilson, Brady Smith, Dillon Smith, Tristen Morelan and Terrance Hale.
A pair of versatile, 6-foot-5 players, Wilson and Brady Smith combined for 39.6 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. Both were all-district selections last season, and Smith continues to play in college at Hannibal LaGrange University.
“Nathan had a great career at Licking (1,838 points),” Glasgow said. “He could score from anywhere and had a knack for making big shots. [Brady] could play anywhere on the floor and defend any position. He was extremely athletic and finished last season with an incredible 53 dunks.
While replacing players is never easy, Glasgow does have two returning starters to build around this season in senior Clabe Sullins and junior G.T. Nicholson.
Sullins (4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg) is an excellent defender who offers Licking a lot of athleticism, according to Glasgow.
At 6-foot-7, Nicholson (8.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) offers the team a versatile, matchup nightmare.
“G.T. is 6-foot-7, but can play anywhere on the floor,” Glasgow said. “He has improved his ball skills and his shot and could have a great season for us.”
Senior Sean Loughridge and junior Michael Milhizer round out the list of returning lettermen for the Wildcats.
Newcomers include a trio of guards in junior Kaden Quick, junior Connor Medlock and sophomore Gideon Antle. All three played on a junior varsity squad that went 22-3 last season, and Quick will give the Wildcats some additional scoring from outside.
“Kaden will bring an excellent outside shot to this year’s team,” Glasgow said. “He can help stretch the floor from behind the 3-point arc and has continued to work on every aspect of his game.”
With a competitive schedule full of district opponents including Mountain Grove, Hartville and Mountain View/Birch Tree Liberty, Glasgow hopes to be in the postseason title mix.
“We will have a different look this season based on the players we have lost to graduation,” Glasgow said. “We will try to play at a pretty fast pace and try to create some opportunities on the defensive end. Our success will depend on our ability to improve throughout the season and will, hopefully, put us in the hunt for a conference and district championship.”
Licking opens jamboree play with Conway and Osceola at Marshfield Monday, Nov. 13. The Wildcats tip off the regular season Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Show-Me Shootout in Waynesville.