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The new version of an old tradition is the pick to represent the Eighth Region in the Sweet 16, but the Road to Rupp will not be easy.
Collins, now in its third year, is a solid, but not prohibitive favorite to capture the school's first regional title, but will have to deal with two-time defending champ Oldham County and perennial bridesmaid South Oldham to close the deal. Also standing in Collins' path are as many as 10 other teams that could have some say by beating anyone in a one-and-done tournament.
Collins, last year's regional runner-up, looks to continue the long community tradition of excellence started by old Shelbyville High, then continuing through Shelby County, from which Collins was formed.
“Our kids appreciate and cherish the success that the community of Shelby County has had in athletics, particularly basketball,” says Collins coach Chris Gaither. “They desired to continue that community success while building a new tradition for a new school.”
Gaither, a former all-stater at Grayson County who later played at Temple before transferring to Georgetown College, has a deep and talented stable, led by 6-foot-5 senior Dez Marshall, a near-unanimous choice as the region's top player. Marshall averaged 18 points and 6 rebounds a game for the Titans a year ago and his tweener size is the only thing keeping the big-time schools from knocking at his door.
Marshall is not alone, however. The Titans should have 6-7 Terez Smith for the entire season this year. Smith, and an older brother, joined the Collins team after moving from Michigan just before the district tournament last season. In just a short time, Smith showed he gives the Titans a shot-blocking presence in the middle. Perimeter players Buddy Johnson (5-9) and Ralphie Stone (6-3) also return while the Titans picked up a significant transfer in sophomore point guard Brent Kidwell. Kidwell played extensively for the Titans two years ago but transferred to Louisville Trinity last year. He returns and is expected to direct the attack.
Juniors Lawson Page and Masai Whyte give the Titans bulk up front, but the Titans will certainly miss 6-9 Brian Stone and defensive specialist Michael Brooks, both of whom graduated.
South Oldham, which has had many outstanding teams over the years only to be denied in regional tournament play, could be Collins' main threat. The Dragons are not big, but play very smart and disciplined basketball. Shea Goodlett knows how to score while 6-4 Jack Sherry is one of the region's better inside players. South coach Steve Simpson has all five starters and several top reserves back.
Oldham County lost some outstanding players in Kerry Smith and Tyler Wesley, but the Colonels are still a factor with guards Sam Gruber and Jacob Kopp and some talented transfers. Size, though, is a problem, as the Colonels were expected to have just one player over 6-2.
Owen County could also be a major factor. While the school has never won the Eighth Region, the Rebels are the only program to advance to the regional semi-finals in each of the last four years. Devin Duvall, a rising star in the coaching ranks, has the region's best young player in 6-5 freshman Carson Williams and a talented backcourt with Jarrod Ball and Zach Ripy, but the Rebels must also replace regional player of the year Sawyer Williams.
Gallatin County should be the best of the rest with guard Kristian Morgain but North Oldham hopes to make some noise with Louisville commit David Levitch.
Simon Kenton, Anderson County, Grant County and Carroll County should be able to spring an upset or two while Shelby County, which has been way down for the last two years, should be “vastly improved,” accoring to Anderson coach Glen Drury. Shelby made the region's biggest splash in the off-season when the Rockets hired highly successful coach Jason Couch away from Louisville Eastern.
There is tremendous balance in the region, but in the end, the scales should tip toward Collins.
Boys' Eighth Region
Loaded Titans seeking school's first state berth.
2.South Oldham (20-10)
Perennially strong program still chasing elusive Sweet 16 bid.
3.Oldham County (31-6)
Two-time defending champ could make it a three-peat.
4.Owen County (23-11)
Under-the-radar program could compete with big boys
5.Gallatin County (22-9)
Veteran coach Jon Jones is one of state's best.
6.Simon Kenton (23-8)
Defense rules for Pioneers.
7.North Oldham (19-11)
New coach will have to rebuild around David Levitch.
8.Anderson County (21-9)
Never count a Glen Drury-coached team out.
9.Grant County (15-16)
Could be one of the region's surprise teams.
10.Carroll County (14-14)
Eight returning lettermen give Panthers hope.
Name, school Class Ht. Pos.
1. Dez Marshall, Collins Sr. 6-5 F
Enormously talented athlete, gives matchup problems because of size, quickness.
2. Kristian Morgan, Gallatin Co. Sr. 6-0 G-F
Region's most complete player, size only thing keeping major colleges away
3. Shea Goodlett, South Oldham Sr. 6-1 G-F
Nothing flashy, gets job done.
4. David Levitch, North Oldham Sr. 6-3 G
Louisville signee finds ways to score.
5. Sam Gruber, Oldham Co. Sr. 5-11 G
Outstanding floor general for state semi-finalist.
6. Tyler Carr, Grant Co. Jr. 6-0 G
Can fill the nets from downtown.
7. Andrew Sampson, Simon Kenton Sr. 6-1 G
Nice shooting touch.
8. Carson Williams, Owen Co. Fr. 6-5 C
Sky is the limit for talented Rebel.
9. Brandon Miller, Spencer Co. Sr. 6-0 G
Four-year starter will be called upon to carry the load.
10. Jay Smith, Anderson Co. Sr. 6-0 G
One of region's most versatile players.
Others to watch: Terez Smith, Buddy Johnson, Ralphie Stone and Brent Kidwell, Collins: Jacob Kopp and Garrett Masters, Oldham Co.; Jack Sherry, South Oldham; Michael Barry, Shelby Co.; Justin Shelton, Jarrod Ball and Zach Ripy, Owen Co.; Dallas Gibson, Carroll Co.; Austin Johnson, Grant Co.; Ross Cox, Anderson Co.
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