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Having won its fifth straight 18th District title last year, LaRue County High School’s Hawks boys’ varsity basketball team returns with what head coach Paul Childress calls good size and balance.
“This is probably my longest team that I have had here in the past six or seven years,” said Childress, who is entering his 14th year as the Hawks’ head coach.
“We have some guys who can play around the basket and we have some capable shooters.”
If he has any concerns, it’s trying to find the right combination of players for best effect.
“Right now we are trying to develop a style of play that will best fit this group,” he said. “It may take a little time but we think this team has a lot of potential to improve and hopefully make some noise by the end of the year.”
Last season, LaRue finished 21-8, losing to eventual Fifth Region Tournament champ John Hardin in the region semifinals.
Among the veterans returning is 6-2, 215-pound senior forward Kody Key-Close.
Childress looks for this third-year varsity veteran to have a huge impact.
“He is very versatile on the offensive end, able to score inside or outside,” said Childress. “He has gotten a lot stronger and is coming off a very good summer. We are really working him to improve his defense and leadership role.”
Tyler Howell (6-5, 190 senior) led the team in rebounding and was also good at taking charges and giving the team extra possessions, according to the coach.
“We want him to become more assertive around the basket on offense as well,” said the coach.
Thomas Harman (6-0, 165 senior) is switching to the point guard position this year from his natural position of shooting guard. Coach sees him as one of the team’s better shooters and defenders.
“We want him to become more vocal,” said Childress. “You have to be really vocal at the point guard position.”
Another versatile forward who could have a breakout season if everything comes together for him, according to Childress, is 6-3, 180-pound junior Caleb Sheffer.
“Caleb has probably improved more than anyone in our program the past two years,” said Childress. “He can play inside or outside, has a very nice mid-range game, and has a high basketball IQ.”
Micah Wiseman, a 6-1, 160-pound junior guard, had a good season last year coming off the bench as a knock-down shooter.
“This season we are looking to Micah to take his game to another level,” said Coach Childress, who wants him to step up his up his defense and team leadership.
“He has the tools to be a really good guard for us,” said Childress. “He is a tremendous shooter that is capable of making three’s in bunches.”
Another player with potential to give the team a big lift is 5-11, 170-pound senior guard Michael Neal who saw limited minutes on the court last season.
“Michael may be one of our most athletic players,” said Childress. “He has been banged up from football, so it may get him off to a slow start, but he has the potential to really help us. He brings a lot of energy when he is on the floor.”
Others who could have the opportunity to contribute include juniors Wes Akers and Luis Cantu, sophomores Chase Watson, Dalton Metcalf, Colby Skaggs, J.C. Dunn, Jaylen Massie, and freshmen Cameron Dawson, Seth Newby, and Seth Devary.
Childress sees Elizabethtown, John Hardin, Thomas Nelson, and Taylor County as the strongest contenders for this year’s regional tournament title.
The coach’s team goals include: improve every game, win the district, compete for the regional title, but, most importantly, develop young men for the future.
With 20 years’ experience each in teaching social studies and in coaching, Childress teaches U.S. History at LCHS.
His assistants are Simon Ford (entering fifth year) and Chris Williams (second year).