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Veteran core keeps Knights stable in summer

Southwood’s Jackson Simons drives past an opponent during a Wabash County YMCA Summer League game this summer.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

One year ago, the Southwood boys’ basketball team was stumbling through the summer in the wake of having 80 percent of its starting lineup graduate. The experience gained last summer throughout the 2018-19 season, though, had the Knights in a vastly different position this June.

Southwood lost just one starter from last year’s team - albeit one of the program’s all-time top scorers in Dallas Holmes - and return the vast bulk of a side that finished 12-11 on the year and was runner-up in the Wabash County Tournament.

“Last year, we came into here in the league and we got pretty much handled a lot,” Southwood head coach John Burrus said. “But this year, we’re in the league and our team’s playing at a higher level. Now, we don’t have Dallas Holmes and he played at a very high level but these guys now have a year of varsity under their belt. Those guys are kind of our nucleus and are back but those guys all played last year so they’re better on the defensive end.

“We’re going to try to play good defense no matter what game it is in the day or how late it is at night. We’re going to try to guard you. We’re going to have some guys that can score in situations but defense has to be a constant for this team.”

For Burrus, the biggest challenge has been replacing the 22.1 points per game provided by Holmes on a game-to-game basis last season. That figure accounted for over one-third of Southwood’s average of 62.7 points per game as a team.

“It’s been a learning experience without Dallas (Holmes) to lean on,” he said. “The scoring has been interesting. It kind of comes and goes. We’re going to have to really play good defense this year to make for what we don’t have in great size. But that’s ok. We can play that way.”

The Knights are welcoming back their starting backcourt of Carson Rich and Gabe Lloyd. The former was the team’s second-leading scorer last season and was the team’s primary scorer this summer while the latter was third on the team in scoring last winter and is the leading returning three-point shooter.

“Having your guards back is really important,” Burrus said. “I think that makes a big difference.”

Both Darwin Barney and Jackson Simons will return to the starting lineup. Barney anchored the paint at 4.4 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season while Simons averaged 7.3 points per game. Both produced in big moments at times last season as well.

Alex Farr will be the likely addition to the lineup in Holmes place in the lineup while Darwin Barney, last season’s leading scorer on the JV level, and Logan Barley likely will see increased minutes.

That core took part in the Wabash County YMCA Summer League while taking trips to Purdue and Huntington University for shootouts. The focus throughout the summer, though, was furthering the improvements of last summer while integrating more young players into the rotation. “Our kids are learning how to play with this group,” Burrus said. “We’re bringing in some guys, too. Some young freshmen are getting to play and I think that’s a little different this year.”