By Rob Patrick
Bryant Hornets head basketball coach Mike Abrahamson calls his 2012-13 team, which[more] starts its season tonight at Vilonia, “a whole new team.”
Maybe not literally but 10 players that contributed to the Hornets’ landmark run to the Class 7A State Tournament semifinals are no longer on the roster for one reason or another. Key seniors graduated including guards Brantley Cozart and Jordan Griffin, who will play in college this season, and 6-7 post Quinton Motto. Others have moved away or decided to concentrate on other sports.
So there’s been a bit of adversity to deal with as the team gets ready for the season.
Though no starters return from last year, several players contributed to varying degrees along the way including guards C.J. Rainey, Luke Rayburn, Strodney Davis and forwards Zach Cambron, Greyson Giles and Brian Reed.
“We’re small,” Abrahamson noted. “We’re inexperienced but I’m hopeful that, with every game, we’ll gain experience and we’ll play hard.
“Our guards, we’ve got a lot of them, and I think they’re pretty good,” he said. “There’s C.J., Tyler Simmons a move-in from Mountain View, K.J. Hill when he gets out of football. We’ll have Greyson Giles back and we’re looking for him to have a big year. Then there’s our seniors, Luke Rayburn, Strodney Davis, Skyler McKissock — we’ve got a lot of guards, a lot of depth there.
“That’s going to have to be our strength there because we’re just not very big,” he emphasized. “We’ve got some shooters. I hope we’ve got some makers. I believe in them. I just think we’re still kind of getting comfortable with what we’re doing. When they stop having to worry about, ‘Am I in the right spot? Am I running the right thing?’, then they can — I don’t even know if they realize it but they’ll relax some and start to make shots. I’m confident in them.”
Along with McKissock, Rayburn and Strodney Davis, Cambron and Riley Hall, who has struggled with injuries, are the seniors on the team. Juniors include Simmons, Rainey, Kevin Rudd, Cedarrian Crosby, Caleb Strain, Giles, Reed and Ricky Buchanan. The sophomores include Hill, John Winn, Jaylen Peterson, Cameron Davis, Ryan Hall, Brushawn Hunter and Ketrick Wilson. Some of those guys are still involved in football at this point, notably Hill, Peterson, Davis, Giles, Ryan Hall and Hunter.
“We lost two college guards but we’re really going to miss Motto a lot,” Abrahamson said. “He led us in rebounding, blocked shot and charges taken, which is a nice combination. He was a force around the basket being 6-7. So Brian Reed and Zach Cambron and Greyson Giles are going to have to make up for it by committee.
“You know we ended the year last year playing really small except for Quinton,” he recalled. “This year, we’ll be a little bit bigger on the whole but not that one really big guy with that length, that had the experience he had and would do the things he would do.
“Now, if by committee, we can do the things he would do, then I think we really have a chance to take some steps and be good,” he concluded.
Regarding the off-season, Abrahamson said, “It’s gone well. There’s been a few ups and downs but that’s normal. The kids don’t see a game coming for a long time and it’s hard to keep that motivation up. But it’s been good on the whole. They’ve been working hard — some days I had to make them, most days they’ve done it on their own.
“I hope by the end of the year — I hope it happens before the end of the year, I hope it happens right away — but I do hope that, no matter what, toward the end of the season we’re ready to make a run at the State Tournament, we’re playing our best, we’re a dangerous team.”
That’s sort of the formula the team had last year.
“We had a good run there at the end, making the semifinals,” Abrahamson acknowledged. “It was fun. It was great. And we hadn’t been that far in 30 years and all of that. But looking back on last year, going 18-11, I feel like we could’ve won more games and not lost 11. But those were growing pains to get to where we were playing our best at the end.
“Every season is different,” he continued. “This team is certainly different than last year’s team. I don’t know what we’re going to go through. I know we’re going to go through something or a few different things. There’s no avoiding adversity. There will be some somewhere along the way but, like I said, by the end of the year, I hope we’ve got them going in the right direction and we’re a dangerous team.”
2012-13 basketball schedule
Nov. 6 — at Vilonia
Nov. 20 — Fort Smith Southside
Nov. 29-Dec. 1 — at CAC Tournament
Dec. 3-8 — at Conway Tournament
Dec. 11 — Russellville
Dec. 14 — at Cabot
Dec. 21 — at Texarkana, Texas
Dec. 27-29 — at Coca-Cola Classic, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith
Jan. 4 — Benton*
Jan. 8 — at Pine Bluff*
Jan. 11 — at J.A. Fair*
Jan. 15 — Sheridan*
Jan. 18 — at Texarkana*
Jan. 22 — Lake Hamilton*
Jan. 25 — at El Dorado*
Jan. 29 — at Benton*
Feb. 1 — Pine Bluff*
Feb. 5 — J.A. Fair*
Feb. 8 — at Sheridan*
Feb. 12 — Texarkana*
Feb. 15 — at Lake Hamilton*
Feb. 19 — El Dorado*
Feb. 27-March 2 — Class 7A State Tournament