The Columbia County News-Times will preview each high school's upcoming basketball season in coming issues. Today: Evans Knights.
Evans basketball has two voids to fill after the graduation of Trey Henderson and Jonathan Nicely.
Henderson was the Knights' starting point guard and Nicely the team's leading scorer last season. The pair cast long shadows.
But Evans coach Kevin Kenny might have one that can trump it.
Junior Jaleel Roberts, who saw limited playing time as a sophomore, stands 6-foot-10 tall and is drawing raves after a summer of AAU ball. Kenny said he's receiving multiple letters a day from Division I schools expressing interest.
"He got some game experience," Kenny said. "He's improved tremendously from last year."
The Knights won't have to rely on just Roberts. They have 10 players returning from last year's team that earned a state playoff berth.
Troy Belton proved a capable fill-in for Henderson last year and will run the offense. Anthony Williams, used mostly off the bench last season, will play a bigger role and was lauded by Kenny as one of the most athletic players in the area.
Forward Tony Davis should complement Roberts in the post.
"He was a monster underneath," Kenny said of Davis. "We expect good things out of Tony this year."
The Knights will be trying for their third playoff appearance in four years. They fell in the first round last season to Bainbridge.
Kenny said he's not likely to change his game plan with Roberts in the front court. He wants the Knights to push the ball up the floor and to press regularly, with Roberts under the basket as a safety net.
Roberts appears ready for the increased role. He said his limited playing time last season caused him to be timid on the court.
"Playing AAU, I really got comfortable," Roberts said. "You play good people from around the nation. I feel like that's gotten me ready."
Roberts said he's received calls recently from University of South Carolina assistant coach Cypheus Bunton and a Wake Forest assistant who asked Roberts to come watch a practice.
"I don't know if that's going to happen," Roberts said. "We got practice going on right now -- a lot of conditioning."
The Knights' roster is not yet finalized. Troy Griffith, Brandon McCladdie and Reuben Faloughi will begin practice when football season is over.
Kenny will hold a final tryout after that.
The Knights' season opens Nov. 25 at Greenbrier, but the Wolfpack are no longer Evans' region rivals. The Knights will compete in the realigned Region 3-AAAA, which includes defending state champion Glenn Hills.
"I think we're going to have a great season," Roberts said. "I hear people say we're not going to do as good because we don't have John and Trey and all that. That doesn't mean a thing."
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