File photos by Kevin Nagle and Rick Nation
The Bryant Hornets basketball team begins a new campaign with a benefit game against the Pine Bluff Zebras on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m., at the Bryant High School gym.
The contest will be a tune-up for the official season opener at home against the rival Benton Panthers on Thursday, Nov. 13.
“The kids are ready to go,” declared Bryant head coach Mike Abrahamson, beginning his fifth year at the school. “They’re ready to play someone other than themselves. It’s time to see where we stand. I feel like we’ve had a good off-season.
“We’ve got a great group of kids — high-character kids,” he related, “and we’ve got more kids than we’ve had at the high school level since I’ve been here. We’re carrying a lot of kids but we’re carrying them all because we think they can help us at some point or another.”
It’s a young group with only two seniors, Wesley Peters and Ketrick Wilson, and just two returning starters, junior Kevin Hunt and Romen Martin, who started last year as a freshman.
Asked about his rotation at this point, Abrahamson stated, “Right now, probably eight, but with serious potential for increased roles from some other guys as the year goes along. Out of the 24 kids that we have in the program, 15 are sophomores. A couple of them will start for us and some others are getting better as each day goes by. We’ll have some opportunity for some depth, I think, by the end of the year.”
Sophomore Calvin Allen will be the starting point guard. He joined the team as a freshman after the Junior Hornets’ season was complete.
“He’s everything you want from a point guard,” Abrahamson said. “He’s vocal. He’s a coach on the floor. He’s prepared. And I love it. I love him. He’s a 10th grader so he’s probably going to make some mistakes but he is a joy to coach as all of these guys are. They’re great kids.
“We’ve got another sophomore in Lowell Washington who transferred in from (Little Rock) Parkview,” the coach continued. “He’ll some big-time minutes. Antavious Lewis (a junior) who was here last year, played some JV, will start off as our other starter then we’ve got Wesley who’ll play a lot and may not start Saturday but is a starter in my eyes. “Our other senior, Ketrick, brings a lot of energy and is very disruptive on defense.
“After that, we’re waiting to see who’s going to emerge,” he said. “Jack Reynolds could emerge as a good player for us as well as some other guys, sophomores and juniors.”
The juniors, along with Hunt, are Jordan Walker Rickie Allen, Clay Ingold, Dagen Carden and Detavious Moore. Sophomores include Kaleb Turner, Christian McIntosh, Garrett Cowart, Marvin Moody (still in football) and Jonathan Allen along with Chris Adams, Hunter Handly, Tyler Kelly, Quentin Nimmer, Kyle Sahr and Braylon Steen.
“We have a lot of guys kind of in the same boat that, with a little bit of improvement, could help us significantly,” Abrahamson asserted.
Regarding Saturday’s game, the coach said of Pine Bluff, “I don’t know what to expect from them. They’ve got a new coach. They’ve got some players in football but they’ll be athletic and they’ll come to play. But it’s more about us seeing where we are.”
And what will he be looking for from his team? “I always want to see effort and I always want to see enthusiasm. I want to see a mindset change from what we had last year. I want to see how we respond when things don’t go our way. But, from a basketball sense, a schematic sense, I don’t want us to turn the ball over. I want us to rebound. I want us to play good defense. I want us to be very difficult to play against. I want us to be the most difficult team in the state to beat, to play against.”
After two years in the South Conference, the Hornets have been moved into another hybrid league, the 7A/6A-Central Conference that includes rivals Conway and Little Rock Catholic along with Van Buren on the 7A level, and distant members Russellville, Greenwood, Alma and Siloam Springs at the 6A level. All the games will count toward a conference championship but only the home-and-home contests with the 7A teams will go towards qualifying for the State Tournament.
Asked if that changes anything about the approach with that in mind, Abrahamson quipped, “The different approach is, we’ll leave earlier.
“Other than that, no, not really. We’ll prepare the same way for every game as we have in the past. I believe in the way we do things but, yeah, the travel will be different and the teams will be different. It is what it is. They’re on our schedule, that’s what we were mandated to do, that’s who we’ll go play.
“The main thing I don’t like is the lack of familiarity,” the coach said. “We’ve changed conferences every chance that we could change conferences since I’ve been here. This is my third conference already. It will be fun in some sense to be back in the same conference with Conway and Catholic because those have been intense games in the past. Siloam and Greenwood and Alma, that will be new to us. It’s a challenge but we’re just going to prepare the same way and play the same way and just leave a little earlier.”
For the Hornets’ schedule, go here.