Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Rockets open against Webster tonight

Senior Dakota Watson
Being an old Army Ranger, Rocket basketball coach Denis Hodge is accustomed to improvising in order to meet an objective.

Since basketball players come and go in the high school ranks, Hodge has come to fully understand that to be successful coaching at that level, one must be willing to adapt.
“It’s going to be a different style for us this year,” Hodge said, pointing to his plan to be more of an up-tempo team.

“As a coach, I have to change depending on the personnel,” he added. “This year we are going to be much better in transition. To be successful, we will have to create more possessions and use our numbers to wear people down.”

Depth will be an asset, but Hodge has very few returning players with varsity experience. Back in the starting lineup are seniors Dylan Hicks and Dakota Watson. Both will play integral roles this season, but even those two will have to adapt to changing roles.

Watson has improved his game tremendously over the offseason. He will be one of the best players in the district and Hodge will count on his 6-foot-2 senior to be a little bit of everything for this year’s Rockets.

Watson is running the floor with more confidence, his shooting and ball skills are better.
“We want to get him in transition,” Hodge said.

Running and gunning will be the name of the game no matter the situation. The Rockets relied heavily on its half-court offense to earn two straight regional tournament berths over the last couple of years, but don’t expect much of that this time.

Hicks will either play the point or two-guard. Right now, Bobby Stephens is pressing for the starting job at running the offense. Senior Dylan Hollis, junior Will Tolley and sophomore Logan Belt will figure into the mix at guard or forward and freshmen Hunter Boone, Sawyer Towery and Devon Nesbitt are sure to figure into the rotation somewhere. Hodge plans on going deep into the bench every night in order to achieve his team’s mission of wearing down the opponent.

Once junior Maeson Myers is recovered from a football ankle injury, he, too, will be part of the depth chart.

Around the basket Hodge thinks senior Tyler Coleman and junior Jared Lundy could become major contributors. Coleman is a good shooter and Lundy could become a real factor playing with his back to the basket. The play of those two frontliners could go a long way toward improving the Rockets’ chances of repeating as a district finalist.

Senior Ryan James and freshman Gavin Dickerson will also be contributors in the post area. They are both very competitive, Hodge said.

The Rockets will rely on its speed, athleticism and depth to win games.

“And I think we are going to surprise some people because collectively, we shoot the ball pretty well,” Hodge said.

Physically, the skipper thinks his team can go toe to toe with most teams it will face.

“Hollis, Watson, Coleman, Dickerson... they will mix it up with anybody,” Hodge explained. “And, Tolley and Stephens, they’re as tough as they come.”

It appears that Trigg County will be the odds on favorite to win a third straight Fifth District championship. In fact, with nearly everyone back from last year’s regional quarterfinalist club, the Wildcats are arguably among the top four teams in the entire region right now.

“They’re a regional contender, no doubt,” said Hodge.

As for the rest of the Fifth District, the Crittenden skipper knows his team has a great shot at getting back to the finals.

“Put us all in a hat and throw us out,” Hodge said. “It could be any one of us.”

Lyon returns a good inside and outside threats with Josh Mincey and Jack Rooyakker, but otherwise has a fresh lineup. At Livingston, it’s tough to know what to expect. The Cardinals will be very young with one senior and one junior to go with a bunch of underclassmen.

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