The Richmond Hill boys’ basketball team made a huge leap in the win column last year — and seems primed for another one.
A strong nucleus that enabled the Wildcats to climb to 18 wins in the 2014-15 campaign — doubling the team’s win total from the previous season — is back. The season kicks off Tuesday with a scrimmage against Tattnall County at 6:30 p.m. at RHHS. Three starters and eight players overall return for head coach Bill Henderson.
“We have eight seniors overall, so they have experienced the highs and lows of a basketball season,” he said. “Hopefully, we can turn missing the playoffs last year into a positive for this season by making sure we are working as hard as we can so we don’t have to experience our season being cut short again.”
Four of last season’s top five scorers are back for the Wildcats, who lost to Effingham County 65-54 in the Region 3-AAAAA tourney quarterfinals. That includes leading scorer Isaiah Hill, who was a first-team all-region pick after averaging 17.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals per game, according to MaxPreps.com. Zane McKenzie and Andrew Walker — Hill’s fellow seniors and returning starters — also earned their way to all-region honors, with each receiving honorable mention. McKenzie averaged 9.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks, while Walker averaged 7.4 points and four rebounds.
Also back are sophomores Sam James (4.1 points, 3.5 rebounds) and Justin Jeffery; and seniors Jordan Jones, Tyler Thompkins and Alex Necessary. Henderson said newcomers to the squad are seniors Leviticus Brown and Jordan Walker and juniors Montest Bumpers and Trey DeLoach.
“Another strength of ours is we have great kids,” Henderson said. “They work hard every day and push each other to perform at the best of their ability. As coaches, we always tell them the only things they can control are their attitude and their effort, and so far this season, I have been very impressed with the work they have been putting in.”
As far as areas where improvement might be needed, Henderson said, “We can always improve defensively,” and that the squad needs to get better at rebounding.
“We hurt ourselves in some key spots last season by not being able to rebound the basketball effectively,” he said.
The Wildcats’ region promises to be strong again. Statesboro, which won RHHS’ subregion and made a run in the state playoffs, has a good core back, Henderson said. So does Effingham, while Bradwell was young but has many players back.
On the other side of the region, there’s defending region and state champion Brunswick; Coffee and Camden County have good returners from playoff teams; Glynn Academy has key players back from a squad that just missed the playoffs; and Ware County “is always tough defensively and well-coached,” Henderson said.
“All of the teams in the region will be very athletic and well-coached, and once region play starts up, every game will be tough,” Henderson said.
RHHS’ season opener is against New Hampstead at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 20, at home.