By Chris Parker
Licking boys basketball has a new head coach in Mike Phillips this season. Phillips is a veteran who started coaching in 1996 and enters his 23rd year as a head basketball coach.
“Licking has a long history of competitive teams and I am excited to see what the kids can show me,” Phillips said.
Three senior players return for Licking this year including: Cade Richards, Connor McCloud and JB Huff.
“I believe all three guys will be able to play some power forward and center positions for us,” Phillips said. “These guys have played since their freshmen years, and we will need their experience to help us play this year. Cade has been working on his shooting. Connor is strong and loves to bang inside. JB is super athletic and has been working on his footwork to make him one of the best post men in the conference.”
There is also a deep group of juniors and sophomores returning for Licking including: Juniors Cole Wallace and Nicky Hood along with sophomores Keyton Cook, Austin Stephens, Austin James and Logan Gorman.
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“Cole Wallace is a 5’8” returning point guard. He brings toughness and we look forward to watching him push the ball this year. Nicky Hood is a three-point shooter that will continue to work on the defensive end to make himself more of an asset to the team,” Phillips said. “Keyton is long and athletic and, with the time he got last year, we look forward to him being one of the best shooters in the league. Austin Stephens is an athletic young guy who showed great defensive intensity this summer. Austin James can run any guard spot and is an automatic bucket in transition. Logan Gorman is an intense point guard who always looks for the open teammate.”
Senior Chris Bartling is a 6’3 senior who transferred into Licking this year. He has guard abilities and will be able to play some small forward as well.
Eli Shepard is a 5’6 junior who will look to have an impact.
Freshmen Carter Sullins, Kannon Buckner and Roston Stockard could all make an immediate varsity impact.
“Carter Sullins is a 5’8 freshman who has the best passing ability that I have seen in a freshman in 20 years,” Phillips said. “Kannon Buckner and Roston Stockard are two freshman who could also make an impact on this year’s team.”
Phillips likes this team’s quickness and shooting ability, but will look for more confidence out of his players.
“We should be real quick and probably shoot the ball pretty good this year. I’m not sure where we are since it’s my first year, but I really like the work ethic I have seen at Licking,” Phillips said. “We need to improve our confidence. These guys are athletic and we need to show that on the court.”
Licking opens the regular season on Nov. 22 at home against Houston.