Evans High's boys basketball team will start the 2009-10 season without most of the key pieces from a season ago.
The Knights' starting point guard and leading scorer graduated, and their biggest defensive presence packed his bags for prep school.
But coach Kevin Kenny knows other Region 3-AAAA teams have lost similar production and is counting on another competitive season after his team reached the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs last season.
"I think definitely Richmond Academy is probably head and shoulders above everybody else," Kenny said. "After that, I think it's pretty much wide open. Everybody lost a big-time scorer last year."
For Evans, that scorer was senior Anthony Williams. Gone, too, are point guard Troy Belton and big man Jaleel Roberts, who would have been a senior at Evans had he stayed.
Kenny said Roberts, a 6-foot-8 center who has received interest from numerous Division I schools, is attending Greensboro Day School.
But Kenny has senior Tony Davis back. The 6-foot-4 Davis was one of the region's top players as a junior and probably the Knights' best all-around player. He will be joined in the paint by newcomer Craig Garr, a transfer from Glenn Hills who plays defensive end on the Knights football team.
Davis said Evans would miss Roberts' defensive presence and would have to find alternate means to replace it.
"We're going miss all the blocked shots, but as coach Kenny tells us, you got fundamentals," Davis said. "Just box out. If the shot needs to be blocked, it needs to be blocked. But we don't need to be jumping up swatting at the ball."
Joining Davis will be fellow seniors Justin Black, Tavarious Ferguson and Troy Griffith, a 3-point shooter who played a lot of minutes as a junior.
The group was part of the Knights' fast start last season. Evans won 16 of its first 17 games and was among the favorites to win the region. Kenny doesn't envision a similar start, with the number of first-year varsity players who will need time to adjust to varsity competition.
Kenny said three juniors were in line to play point guard. Evans' offense has been led the past two years by seniors.
"It's going to be a learning curve for them," Kenny said. "It's going to be a learning curve for the coaching staff. We just got to be patient with them."
Five key games for Evans' boys
Dec. 1 vs. Lakeside
--Evans' home opener. County rivals lost key pieces from last season.
Dec. 5 vs. Greenbrier
--Knights swept both meetings with their rivals last season, including a 51-50 triple overtime thriller.
Dec. 14 vs. Richmond Academy
--First test against what many consider the region's best.
Dec. 28 at Evans Christmas Tournament
--Knights play host to popular area competition
Jan. 23 vs. Grovetown
--Second meeting with county's newest rival
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