File photos by Kevin Nagle
The 2017-18 Bryant Hornets basketball team may be among the youngest and inexperienced of any that head coach Mike Abrahamson has deployed. But they also may have some of the best talent.
The team includes a freshman and 14 sophomores, one junior and three seniors (with a pair of those sophomores and one of the seniors joining in after football season).
The team gets a taste of action against someone else this Saturday with a jamboree at the BHS gym. At noon, the Hornets will play a half against Maumelle and, after Maumelle scrimmages Little Rock McClellan’s Crimson Lions at 12:45, Bryant comes back to play McClellan for a half at 1:30 or so.
“I want to see what we do in a game environment because, as much as I hope it’s the same as practice, it’s not going to be,” Abrahamson related. “But the more these young guys get out there in that environment, like Tip-Off Night (last Tuesday), the more comfortable they’re going to be and the less game-slippage they’re going to have. For a lot of our guys, it’s about experience, so, more than anything, it’s going to be, can we stick to our plan and to our system with the crowd, with officials and things of that nature.”
The team will be led by seniors Sam Chumley (6’4”) and Deron Canada (6’2”) along with junior Rodney Lambert (6’2”). All three saw playing time last season including a start here or there along the way.
“They know more of what we’re doing,” Abrahamson said. “They help us.
“But I’ve told them that 95 percent of this game is played without the ball in your hands so you better be good at those other things,” he emphasized. “You better know how to cut and screen and block out and you better talk. For the most part, those are things you can control and you can work on and you can improve no matter where your starting point is.”
The coach listed 5’11” freshman Camren Hunter as his starting point guard along 6’0” sophomore Khalen Robinson as starters. Robinson, a move-in, starred as a freshman at Episcopal Collegiate of Little Rock last year.
“We’ll bring in a few sophomores off the bench,” Abrahamson said.
Those candidates for playing time are K.J. Merriweather, Arlon Jenkins, Kayleb West, Marqelle Barnes, Ethan Loomis, Ethan Hilkert, Johnathon Hall, Colby Washington, Daniel Walters and O.J. Newburn.
“These guys have been enjoyable to coach,” Abrahamson stated. “They’re trying to do what I ask them to do. For some of them, it’s a big adjustment but I’ve enjoyed working with them.
“We’ve got some guys with some talent, some guys that can play. We’re going to stick to our plan and the question is, what are we going to do when things start going wrong? That’s two major keys to gauge any kind of success we may have.
“We’re going to be better in February than we are now, I hope, but I want to be better now too,” he asserted. “It’s just typical stuff, things that I can see or issues that I can see coming that I try to prepare them for but, until they see it, before they go through it, they may not totally understand what I’m saying.
“Right now, we’re relatively small,” the coach continued. “Until football ends, which we hope is not for a while. We’re inexperienced. We’re small. But I do like them. I like the way they work in practice every day. And some of these guys can play.”
When football ends, which may not be until the first week December, the basketball team will be buoyed by 6’6” sophomore Cantrell Wallace, in particular. Senior Allen Coleman and sophomore Darrick Rose will also join the squad with a chance to contribute.
“I do think that at some point this year — and I hope it’s early, I hope it’s right away — I feel confident that we’re going to be a tough out,” Abrahamson said.
The Hornets have a while to work on anything they struggle with on Saturday. They open the regular season on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at Greenbrier then jump in hot and heavy with a four-games-in-four-days trip to the Bentonville Tournament Nov. 30-Dec. 2, the annual Jammin’ For Jackets tourney in Little Rock Dec. 7-9, the Saline County Shootout with Benton on Dec. 12, then the Conway Classic Dec. 15-16.
They’ll also play in the annual Coke Classic in Fort Smith Dec. 28-30 before starting 7A-Central Conference action. For the full schedule, go here.