Rebuilding takes on whole new meaning for Cougars

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2012-13 Winter Hoops Preview

By Mike Farner

      SHEPHERDSVILLE - The word 'rebuilding' is used a lot when it comes to sports, especially high school sports.

     The word certainly fits the Bullitt Central Cougars this winter. In fact, the word might need to expand its meaning after being associated with the Cougars this winter.

     The past couple of years have been good for the Bullitt Central boys and head coach Joe Pat Lee. The program has recorded back-to-back winning seasons and a year ago won 21 games, the most in over a decade.

     Now, the Cougars start a new era. The team graduated eight players after last season including a four-year starter and four others who had been starting for at least two years.

     If there is ever a picture in Webster's Dictionary to go along with 'rebuilding', it could be a picture of Lee.

     "It would appear that way," the veteran coach said with a smile last week. "We don't have anyone on the roster who has started a varsity game. This would be the most inexperienced group we've ever had as far as varsity experience."

     The only player returning with any varsity experience in a meaningful situation would be senior guard Aaron Duckett who did come off the bench to score a few points last season. Less than a third of the varsity roster this season includes players who even dressed and sat on the bench for games last winter.

     Because his team is so inexperienced and has only three seniors, Lee put them in some tough situations over the summer to try and get them used to the speed of a varsity game. It was more a trial by fire.

     "The unique thing is that we are so inexperienced so we played a brutal summer schedule," Lee explained. "We played tough teams as we tried to get up to game speed. That is something they need to see for the regular season.

     "It's going to take some time for this group to jell," the coach added. "We need to develop leaders and come together as a team."

     Still, Lee is not going to write off this team or this season.

     "We've had a lack of experience in other years," the coach pointed out. "But, we don't have a lack of skilled players. We have some good players."

     Last year, the Cougars never saw an open three-pointer they didn't take. That was pretty much the first, second and third option. This year, for the first time under Lee as the head coach, the Cougars have in inside option in 6-3 junior Brett Bourland.

     "In eight years here, this is the first year we've had a post player," Lee said. "A legitimate player inside we can throw it to, to get baskets.

     "Last year our strength was in transition and a lot of good shooters," the coach added. "Now, we'll be more ball control and work it inside out for our threes. Our top six or seven guys are faster than last year and we should defend better. We have had to change some things up from the way we did things in the past."

     Lee also needs to get this team to understand the fact that they need to work harder in everything on campus.

     "The biggest challenge for this group is not inexperience. I think we can overcome that pretty fast," the coach said. "As a whole, it's just a lot of off the court character issues. We have to have all the guys buying in how hard they have to work in the classroom and in practice and that it is all tied together."

     The coach is looking at a line-up that will use three guards along with a forward and a center. In addition, Lee doesn't expect to use more than six or seven players during important games.

     Running the show for the Cougars this season is junior Jacob Wampler who will replace Caleb Craddock at the point guard spot.  Wampler directed the junior-varsity team a year ago.

     "He did a great job this summer, but he is still learning the position," Lee pointed out. "He has quickness and attacks the basket. He is still learning to see the floor."

     When the Cougars need scoring they will look to Duckett at one of the two shooting guard slots.

     "He is a good spot-up three point shooter," Lee said. "He can score. He can do it night in and night out."

     The other guard spot will go to ether Zach Humphrey or Ken Dockery, a pair of juniors.

     On the front like, the Cougars will have Bourland in the post while senior Jake Gillard will be a forward. Bourland is 6-3, but he takes up space inside at 250 pounds.

     "For his size, he is skilled and athletic," Lee pointed out. "He can bring it up the floor for us. He is just a load inside."

     Off the bench, Bullitt Central can look to 6-5 junior Zack Martin on the front line. Other players who could see action this season include senior Kevin Ford at point guard as well as sophomore Colin Trent at guard and junior Alex Cromer at forward.

     "60 (points) would be a big night for us," Lee said. "We have to adjust our style of play to our players. This year we have to play through our guys inside."

     Nobody in the 24th District could compete with Moore last season, but all the coached feel that the Mustangs will come back to the pack this winter.

     "We want to compete in the district and get back to the regional tournament," Lee said of some goals for this year. With the right game plan Southern or Moore can be beat. We have both of those teams at home this year."

     Getting past Bullitt East or Pleasure Ridge Park at the regional level will be a tough task.

     "Those are certainly the top two teams," Lee said. "I still think Fairdale will be tough to beat. There is something about the way Fairdale plays that gives East and PRP trouble. Those are the three best teams in the region. East is definitely the best team."

     The Bullitt Central coaching staff did change some this season as last year's freshman coach, Kyle Roach, is now the school's girls' head coach. The Cougars do return Shane Popplewell and former North Bullitt standout Jesse Curry is on the staff now along with Shawn Ryan.

     The Cougars will open the season on the road on Tuesday against North Oldham. In fact, the Cougars play four straight games on the road before hosting North Bullitt on Dec. 7.