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SA boys looking to find an identity

November 11, 2012

Coach Mark Alexander said time will tell about the exact identity of the Starkville Academy Volunteers on the court this season.

He likes the way the Vols have prepared during the offseason, but a lack of depth and size may hamper their progress.

Losing leaders like Austin Kinard, Zach Thomas and Ben Lomen from last year's squad also hurts Starkville Academy.

Alexander knows the Vols will be different from last season.

"When you look at it, Carnail (Minor) was the only one (returning) that played significant minutes," Alexander said. "The jury is still out and I haven't seen these guys play or perform to get a good evaluation of what is going to happy at this point.

"The biggest thing is numbers. We just don't have very many players. If you don't have much depth, you can't play the way you want to play and we don't have any heighth either because we don't have anyone over 6-1.

In AAA, there will be some guys with a lot of size and numbers. That will put us in a disadvantage in not having the size or depth that other teams do. We'll have to overcome those things."

Alexander likes the way practices are going. He believes the Vols are in good shape and have approached the season with a good attitude. They have been preparing since the beginning of school and have taken the work outside to the track and tennis courts.

Minor said the focus at SA is to be a better team than it was last year.

"We all play hard and don't give up," Minor said. "We're going to play hard every game, go out and do what we've got to do."

Alexander will be relying on his seniors Minor and Brandon Sharp to lead the Vols.

"(Sharp) will be our starting point guard," Alexander said. "He was going to be the starting point guard last year, but hurt his knee in the first minute of the first practice. He'll be back.

"Caleb Merchant played a lot for us at the end of last year and got some playing time. I knew he was going to have to play a lot this year, so I really tried to work him in a lot last year. Carnail will be our best outside shooter and we'll look for him to score. Caleb is going to do a lot on the inside."

Merchant is a junior, while Bradley Weseli is another junior who didn't play much last year that Alexander will count on. There are also two newcomers in junior Oshea Kemp, a transfer from Starkville High School, and Raheim Robinson, a transfer from East Oktibbeha.

As far as a style of play, Alexander said SA's game will be dictated by personnel.

"Because of injuries, the schedule and the way things shook out, we slowed it down and tried to play that style of basketball last year," Alexander said. "We'll do some of that this year, but we'll be a tad more athletic and that may allow us to do a few more things defensively than we were able to do last year.

"Offensively, we'll have to do some things differently to take advantage of the personnel we have. You do that every year based on the personnel. We will be different offensively and defensively. It will be the same system and we'll do a lot of the same stuff, but at the same time, tweak it to maximize the people that we have."

One thing that hasn't changed is the extremely challenging schedule that faces the Vols, including Jackson Academy, Jackson Prep and Pillow Academy.

"We open up this year against JA and Prep in the first two games," Alexander said. "You open up with two teams that are always always powers. We'll jump in there early, then sink or swim. We'll know more after those two games."

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