By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Twenty-win seasons have become the norm of late for the Mansfield boys’ basketball team.
This winter, the Lions will look to get over the postseason hurdle as they reshape last season’s 21-6 team that went undefeated in Summit Conference competition.
“We’re very excited for the upcoming season,” said Mansfield coach Terry Writer. “We feel that we have the necessary talents to be successful if individuals can accept their roles and make the adjustments necessary to be a high-level team.”
Mansfield reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth consecutive season in 2017-18. But the Lions once again had their season end at the hands of Hartville, just like in 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Mansfield returns five seniors and one junior on its varsity squad.
Dylan Caruso, a 6’9” center, averaged 15 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game last season. He’s a three-time first team all-conference selection.
“Dylan is a solid all-around player with great shot blocking abilities,” Writer said. “We’re expecting him to have great senior season.”
Guards Payton Watterson (12.1 ppg, 3.3 assists per game) and Kevron Baker (4.1 ppg) return in the backcourt.
“Payton is a very good all-around player with good skills on both sides of the ball. He’s a team leader,” Writer said. “Kevron is a very quick point guard who likes to play defense. Our team success may depend on his ability to run the team on the offensive end.”
Bret Berry, 6’3” senior forward, brings athleticism and speed to the court. Senior guard Britt Keith offers shooting and playmaking abilities.
The Lions have an additional scoring threat in Arly Miller, a 5’11” forward who led Mansfield’s JV team in scoring last season and is a capable 3-point shooter.
Mansfield will have a wealth of depth with the addition of three talented transfers.
Brothers Hunter (6’0” senior guard) and Hesston (6’4” junior forward) Gray previously played at nearby Norwood. Both started for Norwood since their freshman years.
“Hunter is an athletic player with the ability to score the ball. His quickness is going to be a plus for us,” Writer said. “Hesston can play a variety of positions. We expect him to be a major contributor on both ends of the court.”
Jay’Lan Williams is the third transfer. A 6’1” senior guard, Williams previously played at Springfield Central.
“Jay’Lan has good ball handling skills and excellent passing abilities,” Writer said. “He’s a versatile team player.”
Seniors Noah Mitchell (5’9” guard), Chase Wilson (6’1” guard) and Casey Carnal (5’10” post) will also contend for varsity minutes.
The Lions graduated Spencer Greene, Michael Tate, Jacob Gray and Trenton Emerick from last season’s team.
“Our strengths will be depth, quickness, size and scoring balance,” Writer said. “We should have the abilitiy to play some different styles.
“Team play is going to be the key component to our success.”
Mansfield opens the season at home November 27 against Conway.