By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Hillcrest head coach Jordan Fielding is excited about the upcoming season after the finish his Hornets had to the 2019-2020 season, winning five of their last seven games with most everyone returning.
“Going into my second year, the players in our program know me and my expectations,” Fielding said. “They know that I hold them to a high standard on the court and off the court. I fully expect us to compete to win every game we play. Our players are bought in, but they still have to perform consistently night in and night out, if we want to compete for a conference and district title.
“Last year was a year of changing the expectations we had of ourselves and learning what it takes to win. We had players that got thrown into roles that they hadn’t been in before and as the season went on, we continued to get better. A lot of games it seemed like we were right on the verge of a breakthrough and the ball wouldn’t bounce our way. Our guys could have folded, but they continued to stay the path.”
The Hornets, who finished 7-19 overall and fifth in the Ozark Conference, will need to overcome the loss of Jordan Ausler. The 2020 graduate averaged 9.3 points, 1.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game last season and was a Class 4 All-District 11 and All-OC honorable mention selection.
“Jordan was one of our most athletic and toughest players last year,” Fielding said. “We will miss his ability to get to the rim, knock down shots and guard. He was one of the most coachable kids I have ever met. He will be missed greatly by our program.”
Fielding has a lot of experience returning from last year’s squad and is excited about what they bring to the table.
“I think our biggest strength going into this season is our team chemistry,” Fielding said. “We have almost all of our team from last year back. Our guys have been through the lowest of lows together and stuck with each other. They trust one another and they are starting to figure out what it takes to be a winner.
“Our guard play is still one of our biggest strengths. Crishawn (Haggard) and Devin (Oliver) are a dangerous duo, and when you add in our other starters/returners/newcomers who are a year older, a year wiser, and a year better, we have the potential to win some games.”
Returning this season for Hillcrest include:
• Crishawn Haggard, 6-foot, senior guard, averaged 20 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.4 spg, and was an all-district and all-conference first-team pick. He is 233 points away from eclipsing 1,000 for his career. “Crishawn had a breakout season last year and is looking to build off it. He has a knack for getting to the rim and finishing through contact. He is one of the best finishers in southwest Missouri. He is also a good shooter who can knock down open and contested shots. He really makes our team go with his pace of play, aggressiveness and leadership. His decision-making has really improved over the summer and his ability to make the right play at the right time is unique. He is looking to cement himself as one of the best players in southwest Missouri.”
• Devin Oliver, 6-3, junior guard, averaged 6.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.1 apg, was selected to the All-OC defensive team. “Devin really started playing well toward the end of the season last year. When he plays well, we usually have a high chance of winning. Devin is a great shooter who is capable of getting to the rim and finishing. When he gets out in transition or downhill, he is hard to stop. He is also our best defender. His confidence from last year to now has grown exponentially and he is looking to put together a full year and make a name for himself in southwest Missouri.”
• Cole Griesemer, 6-4, sophomore small forward, averaged 5.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.8 apg and 1 spg. “Cole started every game as a freshman and he is looking to really have a breakout season. He led our team in rebounding last season, but his game is made of much more than that. Cole is a great passer who sees the court unlike a lot of other players. He is an improving shooter who can knock down open shots. He is also a great leader on and off the court. We’re looking for him to be aggressive offensively this season.”
• DeeVon Braxton, 6-5, junior power forward, averaged 5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1 bpg. “DeeVon does so many different things for our team that don’t always show up on the stat sheet. He has great hands, a quick second and third jump, and is an improving finisher. He rebounds really hard and is great at giving our team second and third chances. He led our team in blocks like season, and we are looking for him to anchor our defense again this season.”
• Mike Floyd, 6-0 junior small forward, averaged 2.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg. “Mike was our ‘sixth’ starter last year. He did a great job coming off the bench and, in a lot of games, he was in at the end of the game during crunch time. Mike is a strong, skilled small forward who is an improving shooter and a great rebounder. His leadership and attitude are important to our team.”
• Cooper Huett, 6-1, sophomore guard. “As a freshman, Cooper came off the bench and played solid in his role. This season, we are looking for Cooper to expand his impact on our games. Cooper is a great shooter and capable defender who plays really hard. His basketball IQ is very high. He always seems to make the right cut and be in the right spot at the right time, which makes it hard to keep him off the court.”
• Lamarkus Miller, 6-1, junior guard. “Lamarkus is a good defender who plays hard. He is a capable shooter and has good court vision.”
• Aiden Tummons, 5-11, senior guard. “Aiden is a good shooter who will need to come in and knock down open shots.”
“Heading into the season, the confidence our players have might surprise some people,” Fielding said. “We have players who are ready to show southwest Missouri that they have what it takes to win games. Also, I think that our depth might surprise our competition as well.”
And, the Hornets will add to that depth with another five newcomers Fielding will be looking at to make an impact this season.
• Jaquan Carr, 5-11, junior guard. “Jaquan is a great defender and capable shooter. He adds a toughness to our team and I am expecting him to come in make open shots and play like a star in his role.”
• Anthony Keltner, 5-11, sophomore guard. “Anthony is a great shooter who can also get to the rim and finish through contact. He is a strong and physical for his age and I am looking for him to have a great year and impact our games in many different ways.”
• Marquis Richardson, 6-3, junior, small forward. “Marquis had a great summer. He has put in a lot of work to improve his game and it is starting to show. I am looking for him to make an impact with his shooting, rebounding, and defending.”
• Braxton Baker, 6-4 sophomore power forward. “Braxton is a long, athletic forward who is a great finisher, capable shooter and has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. We’re looking for him to make an impact with his rebounding, finishing, and shooting.”
• AJ Collins, 6-2, senior guard. “AJ is an elite shooter and passer. His ability to play with pace and get to the rim make him dangerous offensively. We look for him to impact our games this season in a lot of different ways.”
The Hornets are scheduled to participate in a jamboree at Ozark on Nov. 17 before opening the regular season in the Clever Tournament on Nov. 30-Dec. 5.
“I think that we learned that winning isn’t just an outcome – winning is also a mentality,” Fielding said about the team’s takeaway from last season. “Our guys wanted to win games, but we weren’t winners in our minds yet. We wanted to change the narrative about Hillcrest and it started with our expectations. I think that once we hit our streak at the end of the season we finally started to realize what it takes to win and we started to expect to win.”