By MacKenzie Bates - Sports Editor
Nov. 27, 2013 — East Carter boys basketball coach Brandon Baker and the rest of the Raiders are eager to put last season behind them.
The Raiders were 11- 18 a year ago and missed out on the 16th Region Tournament for only the second time in the past six seasons.
“Each year and each team is different and we’re not that far removed from a regional championship and you can’t go back on that,” Baker said. “Each team has to create their own identity. It’s in the back of your mind for incentive but throughout a season I’m not so sure how long that sticks with you.”
Baker knows it’s the preseason and there’s just a few weeks before the season begins but he already sees improvement.
“I feel really good right now about our team and everybody at this time of the season is up and down,” Baker said. “We’ve had some really good practices in the preseason and it follows up with some not so good practices but that’s the ups and downs of high school basketball.”
Things seem to be looking up in Grayson despite losing a few starters from last season.
They have four returning seniors including guard Cole Brammer. He is expected to be a leader along with Qua Davis and Bradley and Seth Marsh.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Brammer said. “We’ve put a lot of hard work into the offseason and my teammates are as ready as I am to get the ball rolling and have a good year.”
“It’s always a natural progression with four seniors and our guys are going to get minutes,” Bakers said. “It’s easier to be a leader if you’re going to get minutes so I feel comfortable with those guys. They’re being vocal in practice and you want to see that as a coach.”
The Raiders are hoping what they lack in size, they will make up for in speed. At any point, East Carter could have five guards on the floor at one time to get up and down the floor.
“We’re going to try and wear people out this year,” Brammer said. “Having five guards out there on the floor at the same time will allow us to run up and down the court fast to create scoring opportunities.”
“We offer some things that might give some teams trouble so hopefully we can take advantage of that and play to our strengths,” Baker said. “Size might be an issue with us but we are what we are. We’re going to scrap around and try to turn it in our favor. We have some guys that can play inside for us and we just have to make the best of it.”
A big factor for East Carter will be to stay healthy this season.
The injury bug has bitten the Raiders over the past few seasons. Baker does not use the “what if” saying a lot but knows his team should be healthy as the season progresses.
“It seems like we’ve always had our share of injuries and sickness but that’s part of it and we’ve got to play on,” Baker said. “Someone has to be ready to step up in case one of our players gets injured. Hopefully we’ve used up all of our bad luck.”
The Raiders will also look to rely on junior Connor Greene who at times last season helped keep East Carter in games and helped win a few of them.
Baker admits he’s been hard on Greene to utilize both ends of the court and become the stop gap on defense and grab loose balls and rebounds, but only because they expect big things out of him this season.
“He’s a very good player,” Baker said. “He’s involved with basketball all the time. He has a better understanding of how he needs to play and he’s a guy who can handle, pass and shoot the basketball.”
Brammer and the rest of his teammates do not expect anything less than getting to the regional tournament and have a chance to play at the state tournament.
“This team has what it takes to make it to the regional tournament,” Brammer said. “We shoot the ball well and we’re getting after it defensively. That’s what it will take to get where we want to be.”
Baker believes his players can take advantage of their unselfishness to make their teammates better throughout the season.
“We’re looking for each other and I think we’ve got some guys who can shoot the basketball and have very good ball skills,” Baker said. “It’s just a matter of fundamentals. We have to handle it and deliver it and we have to score. We’ve got to do that consistently.”
East Carter’s road to redemption begins Dec. 3 when they host Lawrence County.
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 1-800-247-6142.