LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel coach Brad Sizemore hopes the momentum from winning the 13th Region title carries through the summer and into next season.
“That’s what we’ve been trying to build on. I think we’ll be a lot better than we were last year, but it will be hard to top what we accomplished,” Sizemore said.
He has also cautioned his team there is a downside to success.
“We’ve got a target on our back now,” he said.
The Jaguars appear to have enough weapons to defend themselves against team’s wanting to unseat the defending region champion. There is a lot of experience returning in Marcus Carson, Jake Allen, Austin Rush, and Kendrick Henson. There are also several young players that have stepped up in the summer.
“We’ve gotten a lot of games in,” Sizemore said. “I think we got around 32 varsity games plus a lot of JV and middle school games. We’ve been in gym.”
North Laurel won the Silver Bracket in the state AAU Tournament by defeating Rowan County 60-40. It was Rowan County that ended the Jaguars season in the Sweet 16. Next they finished with a 5-3 record at Tennessee Tech. The Jaguars only had about two weeks with their full team on the court due to the number of baseball players on the team.
“We got a lot accomplished,” Sizemore said. “We’ve obviously got those four kids that played a lot for us last year. They’ve been getting better. We also had some young kids coming in that kind of surprised me. We tried to play a lot of kids to see who can help us.”
One difference Sizemore expects from last season is a much deeper lineup. Strong summers from players like Austin Thompson, Chris Miller, Ryan House and Elijah Jervis have them battling for playing time. He has also been impressed with Bryson Asher and Peyton Broughton. Broughton earned MVP honors at the Rick Bolus Blue Chip Camp.
The Jaguars didn’t see Clay County or South Laurel during the summer, but did see much of the 13th Region. Harlan County had a strong summer with just two losses and a spot in the state quarterfinals. Harlan lost to eventual champion Henry Clay 80-73. The Harlan County JV team won the state title. Sizemore said Pineville, who has all five starters back, also looked very good.
“I think it’s going to be really interesting this year,” Sizemore said.
Sizemore also expects to have more shooters to go along with good size. He would like to see his team get stronger before the season starts.
“We’ve got to hit the weight. We’ve got three months. We’ve been playing a lot of games, but we’ve got to get in the weight room,” he said.
One advantage Sizemore has had this summer in his second season is to spend more time on fundamentals and skill development. Last summer the Jaguars were trying to learn a new system.