Looking for a preview of the McDowell Titans’ 2019-20 varsity basketball team?
If you paid attention to last season’s jayvee squad, you’ve already got one.
The Titans, who open the season tonight on the road at R-S Central (4:30 start, jayvee boys), return just five players from last season’s 10-16 club. Of that quintet, one was a starter and one more played fairly significant minutes. No one else saw meaningful action.
Meanwhile, the Titans lost six players from last year’s team to graduation, along with two other transfers who would have logged major minutes this winter.
As a result, this year’s varsity roster looks a lot like last year’s JV lineup.
“We’ve only got one kid that started a game last year, but outside of that, we’re a bunch of guys who have never played in a varsity basketball game,” said Titans head coach Brian Franklin. “We’re going to be counting on a lot of those people.”
But the ninth-year head coach was quick to point out there is an upside, and it’s a pretty substantial one.
“The positive side is I think we’ve got a lot of kids who can play,” said Franklin, who will be assisted by longtime coach Joe Cash and jayvee head coach Allen Tate. “I think we’ve got pieces than can form together and make a really good basketball team. And something we can say that we haven’t been able to say the last couple of years is that we have some kids who will be the building blocks not just for this year, but for the next couple of years.”
The building starts on the blocks, with 6-foot-3 junior post Trent Lewis. Lewis was brilliant at times last season. He led the team in rebounding at 8.1 per game, and was third in scoring at 11.9 points per contest. He also averaged 1.8 blocks, 1.3 steals and 1.3 assists, and shot 47 percent from the field. Lewis appears poised to improve his numbers and turn in an all-conference-type campaign for the Titans.
Senior Richard Handy (6-3, 230), fresh off an outstanding football season, joins Lewis in the post. Handy’s averages of 3.6 points and 2.1 rebounds should greatly improve this season.
The other three returners all figure to see much more action this year. Senior posts Seth Harrison (6-4) and Johnathan Ramirez (5-11), along with forward Jalen Robbins (6-1) have all improved their games in the offseason.
With plenty of game experience among its upper-class frontcourt players, the Titans should be more adept on the glass than last season, when they suffered from rebounding deficits more often than most MHS teams in the past.
“An area where we should be a whole lot better than last year is rebounding,” said Franklin. “There were games we got hurt because we were out-rebounded so badly. We were playing with an undersized four-man and a sophomore at the center position, and we had no real strong rebounder from the perimeter positions.”
The remainder of the Titans’ roster consists of newcomers to the varsity game. They are, however, newcomers who went 17-4 last season as junior varsity players. Once they become accustomed to the speed of the game at this level, there is no reason they can’t be part of an equally successful varsity team.
“It’s (varsity) different,” said Franklin. “And it’s the kind of difference that, no matter what you do in summer or in practice, you can try and prepare them as much as you want to, but until they go out there and play, they really don’t understand it.”
Franklin will rely heavily on players like junior point guard Mikey Queen (6-0) and junior wing Mason McPeters (5-11) in the early going, but they are several others who have chances to play big minutes, like juniors Colby Effler (5-9), Riley Moore (5-10) and Gavin Davis (6-1), as well as sophomores Jandon Robbins (5-11) and Zavion Bianchini (6-5).
Senior guard Trey Allison (6-1) is a first-year player who could also help. Junior forward Peyton Rose (6-2) is injured and isn’t expected to return until much later in the season. Junior Taye Daniels (5-9) rounds out the roster.
“Last year at times, we played seven kids,” said Franklin. “I think Friday night, we may go 11 or 12 deep, just because we’ve got a lot of kids that are interchangeable. Along with that, we ought to be able to really play hard, and that ought to help us defensively.
“We’re trying to give them the mind-set of, let’s play as hard as we can play, take care of the basketball and rebound it and guard somebody.”
Fortunately, giving maximum effort and buying into the team-first philosophy shouldn’t be a problem for this group.
“The kids have been working extremely hard,” said Franklin. “They’re very coachable, and what I really like about them is the team really wants to win. They pull for each other.
“This team has a good understanding of the game and they all get along well with each other. They care about how the other kid is doing, and isn’t just all about ‘me.’ They want the team to do well more than anything, and that is getting rarer and rarer.”
McDowell head coach Brian Franklin talks about the Titans:
3 — Mikey Queen, Jr., G, 6-0: “Mikey will be taking many of the minutes at point guard for us this year. He is an athletic guard that we need to push the ball and get us into our offense. Point guard is the hardest position to make a transition from junior varsity to varsity, the quicker he becomes comfortable with the pace of the game and what we are doing the better for our team. He has the ability to score in the open court and has improved a great deal as a perimeter shooter. When he starts to see like I do how good he can be, he will be great.”
5 — Colby Effler, Jr., G, 5-9: “Colby is a big part of what we are trying to do this year and much of what he does will determine how we do as a team. Colby is a team leader and is a tremendous competitor. He is one of those players that can do a little bit of everything. When he is engaged and inspired to play hard he is very good. Great on-ball defender when he really wants to be. Unselfish player that has a great understanding of the game. We need Colby to be a coach on the floor for us.
10 — Jandon Robbins , Soph. G, 5-11: “Jandon is a very skilled guard that we have moved up to play as a sophomore; he has the ability to do all the things you have to do to play on the perimeter. He can shoot the ball as well as anyone on the team, has the ability to get to the basket and finish, and is a great passer. He can also be a very good defender for us. When Jandon starts to understand the mental aspect of the game better and does not allow his emotions to take control of him, he will be a fantastic player.”
12 — Riley Moore, Jr., G, 5-10: “Riley has yet to practice with us due to an injury he suffered in the Freedom football game. Riley really impressed me over the summer with the way that he played. He is a great passer. An athletic player who can defend and is one of those players that the ball just seems to move better and the offense is smoother when he is on the court. Great teammate and a winner.”
35 — Zavion Bianchini, Soph., F, 6-5: “Zavion is one of two sophomores that we will have on the varsity this season. He has probably shown more overall improvement since the end of last year than any other player on our roster. Zavion has worked hard to get stronger and that has really made a difference in how he is playing on the court early in practice this year. He has shown the ability to make mid-range jumpers, and get to the basket with one or two dribbles in addition to scoring in the paint. I am extremely excited about the season Zavion can have, and I think the sky is the limit for him as a player if he continues to work.”
20 — Taye Daniels, Jr., G, 5-9: “Taye will play point and shooting guard for us. He impressed us early on with his athleticism and ability to guard the ball. He could be a great on-ball defender. He has not been in our program before this season so it will take some time for him to fully understand what we are trying to do on both sides of the floor. Great teammate that all the kids love having around.”
14 — Peyton Rose, Jr., F, 6-2: “Peyton will not be able to play until after Christmas at the earliest following knee surgery after an injury during baseball. When he returns he will add depth at the post position. He is a bruiser and does not mind to mix it up under the basket. Had a great finish to his sophomore season on the junior varsity team. One of those kids that makes the team better by just being around, even while he is injured.”
42 — Gavin Davis, Jr., G, 6-1: “Arguably the best shooter at McDowell High School. Gavin can really shoot the ball and will be a definite asset when teams try to zone us or clog the lane. Our challenge to him has been to be more than just a shooter, and so far in practice he has worked very hard and shown improvement as an all-around player. The more he improves defensively and on his ball handling versus pressure the more we can use him.”
22 — Trey Allison, Sr., F, 6-1: “Trey is a Senior that will bring toughness and leadership to our team. He is fresh off the football field, and is also boxer! In many ways Trey is a throwback to the old days. He is a kid that understands how great being a part of a team can be, and is excited to be a Titan and I love that. Trey will be a great leader for us because he has a great attitude and work ethic. He has only become serious about basketball over the past few years but has really developed a great shot with near perfect form.
32 — Mason McPeters, Jr., F, 5-11: “Mason plays harder than any player in our program. He had a terrific finish to his sophomore season on the junior varsity team and I think that will carry over into his junior season. Great in transition and finishing at full speed. His tenacity and strength should make him a great rebounder from the wing. Continues to improve as a perimeter shooter which will only make him more of a threat on the floor. Outstanding teammate and very coachable.”
34 — Seth Harrison, Sr., F, 6-4: “Seth has improved more since his ninth grade year to his senior year than any player currently in our program. Seth is long and athletic, and one of the best on the team at running the floor as a post player. Seth has improved a great deal offensively and is a player that we now can look to feed the ball to and expect good things when he catches it. Seth is very good in the high pick and roll with his ability to finish at the basket and make a mid-range shot.”
30 — Johnathan Ramirez, Sr., F, 5-11: “J.R. has a motor, he is fun to watch because he goes all out and plays with almost disregard for his own body. Smart player that is very effective in the mid-range as an undersized post player. Very good defensive player that can help his team with effort. Absolute team-first, all I want to do is win guy that you love as a coach.”
40 — Richard Handy, Sr., F, 6-3: “Richard is one of the few players with game experience at the varsity level. Came in and had some big games last year as a junior. Gives us a physical presence around the basket and has great hands. Should be one of our best post defenders. Has the ability to step out on the floor and make perimeter shots. Richard was late to practice after finishing up his duties on the football field, as he gets more into basketball shape and gets his feel back will be a major contributor for us.”
24 — Jalen Robbins, Sr., F, 6-1: “Jalen is a very good perimeter shooter that can do many other things on the floor to help his team win. Very good passer to the low post and finding open teammates in transition. Jalen is a competitor that wants his team to win more than he wants any individual achievements or stats. Was a great teammate and leader as a junior even with limited playing time.”
44 — Trent Lewis, Jr., F, 6-3: “Trent is the only returning starter from a year ago, where he had a fantastic season as a sophomore playing on the varsity. He is one of the best that we have had at quickly getting in the air to rebound and tip the ball around the basket. He has improved his footwork and shot a great deal over the course of the past year. He is much more comfortable catching the ball with his back to the basket and making a move. His perimeter game has improved to the point that we can also play him on the wing. I expect Trent to have a terrific season.”
McDowell High basketball schedule 2019-20
Nov. 22 @R-S Central
Nov. 27 East Burke
Dec. 3 @Mitchell
Dec. 5 @Madison
Dec. 10 @East Burke
Dec. 13 R-S Central
Dec. 17 Mitchell
Dec. 19 Hickory
Dec. 27 Madison (Boys, McDowell Christmas Tourney)
Madison (Girls, McDowell Christmas Tourney)
Dec. 28 Pisgah (Boys, McDowell Christmas Tourney)
TBA (Girls, McDowell Christmas Tourney)
Jan. 3 @St. Stephens
Jan. 7 @Watauga
Jan. 10 Alexander Central
Jan. 14 @South Caldwell
Jan. 16 @West Henderson
Jan. 21 Freedom
Jan. 24 @Hickory
Jan. 28 St. Stephens
Jan. 31 Watauga
Feb. 4 @Alexander Central
Feb. 7 South Caldwell
Feb. 12 West Henderson
Feb. 14 @Freedom
NWC games in bold