Pictured is the Kennett varsity boys basketball team. Pictured front row left to right: Jay Edgington, Treyvon Bradford, Cameron Harper, Antavies Drake, Xavier White. Pictured back row left to right: Collin Smith, Kevonte Mitchell, Antonio Primer, Divante Taylor, Harold Weeden, Materion Jones. Not pictured - Rantrell Caruthers, Akeem Nelson, Malik Wallace and Landon Vaughan.
Kennett returns three of its five starters off of last season's varsity squad and should have a strong supporting cast to go around its returning standouts.
"We graduated nine off the 2010-11 squad so we were bringing a junior varsity team up last year," Kennett coach Jim Vaughan said. "I thought those kids responded great last year. We probably let some games slip away last year, but I think we overcame some challenges other people didn't think we would be able to overcome. That group of kids competed well as a junior varsity bunch and stepped right into the varsity level and did the same thing. We've got the majority of that group back and some young kids to add into that mix that had good offseasons this summer and prepared themselves for this level of basketball. We are going to set our goals high to where we want to be at season's end."
Kennett averaged 60.5 points per game last season. Its returning starters were the top three scorers on last season's squad and combined to average 37.4 of Kennett's 60.5 points per game.
"We return three starters in Antavies Drake, Kevonte Mitchell and Antonio Primer," Vaughan said. "We also bring back a Cameron Harper, Divante Taylor and Jay Edgington who got varsity experience last year.
"Then we add Collin Smith to the mix who has been out of basketball for 1 1/2 year due to a surgery," Vaughan continued. "We graduated Adam Grantham and Collin kind of fills in what Adam left. He's got the ability to score the basketball a little bit and provides toughness, size, strength and runs the floor well.
"Materion Jones is stepping up to the varsity level," Vaughan said of the junior. "I think he can provide some pretty good things offensively. We need him to keep grinding as a rebounder and a defender."
Kennett also expects to receive contributions from multiple underclassmen.
"We've got some young kids coming up," Vaughan said. "We plan on Harold Weeden being a full-time varsity kid as a sophomore, which is a lot to ask of a varsity kid, but in his mind he is that guy. I think he has prepared himself mentally to be ready."
Kennett also has the luxury of having a freshman class that went undefeated as seventh graders and lost only one game in eighth grade.
"We think we've got two freshmen that are going to be big time contributors in that mix and add to our depth in Akeem Nelson and Rantrell Caruthers," Vaughan said.
The Indians have five seniors - Antonio Primer, Divante Taylor, Jay Edgington, Collin Smith and Cameron Harper - on its varsity squad.
"We've got some good variety with the length we have this year," Vaughan said.
Kevonte Mitchell, who is entering his junior season, led Kennett in scoring with 16.7 points per game last season. Primer averaged a team-high 7.7 rebounds per game and Drake had a team-high 106 assists.
Kennett will play close to home at the start of the season. The Indians are slated to play Valley View, Ark., on Nov. 30 at 5:30 p.m. and Crowley's Ridge Academy at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. Both games will take place at the Hall of Fame Classic in Rector, Ark.
"We played Valley View last year and got beat at the end of the game," Vaughan said. "It was early in the year and we were playing like a young team. We made a number of mistakes. I think we will be more ready going into that scenario this season.
"I don't know anything about Crowley's Ridge Academy," Vaughan continued. "We will have to do some digging on them, but after having played the Riverbend the week before I think we will be prepared to handle scenarios they throw our way and they will have a hard time defending some things we will be able to do."
Kennett hopes to bring home its fourth straight championship at the 16-team Bloomfield Christmas Tournament. The four-day double-elimination tournament will take place Dec. 26-29 at the Bloomfield High School gymnasium.
"The trophy sits here in my office and the kids get to come through and see it all the time," Vaughan said of winning the tournament the last three seasons. "They are always talking about it. The tournament is a great event overall for a high school kid to get to play in that atmosphere. Our kids have a high expectation every time they go to that. This year regardless of what seed we earn we would still like to think we can be the team to beat in it."
The 2012-13 season will be Kennett's final season to compete in the Bootheel Conference Tournament with Malden, Hayti, Portageville, Caruthersville, Senath-Hornersville and South Pemiscot. Hayti won the Bootheel Conference Tournament as the No. 4 seed last season and later advanced to the Class 2 state final four.
"That conference is going to be fun this year," Vaughan said. "Regular-season games are going to be competitive and come tournament time it is going to be tough. I think that will be one of the better tournaments just to go watch this year."
Kennett will face a daunting task of competing in a Class 4 district which historically features some of the top programs in southeast Missouri. Dexter will host Class 4, District 1, at the Bearcat Event Center at the end of the season. Kennett, Dexter, Notre Dame, Sikeston, Cape Central and Perryville will compete in Class 4, District 1, for the next two seasons.
Four the six boys programs in the district - Kennett, Notre Dame, Sikeston and Cape Central - have won district titles in the last five years in boys basketball. Sikeston has won Class 4, District 1, the last four seasons and Cape Central has won Class 5, District 1, the last two seasons.
"We have to approach every single quarter of every single game and every single practice as a step toward being there on the final night of the Class 4 district championship," Vaughan said. "There are no give me games in that district. I cannot tell you what is in Springfield or Kansas City, but I've got to really believe top-to-bottom this has got to be the most competitive Class 4 district in the state."
It will be Vaughan's seventh season as head coach of the Kennett varsity boys basketball program. The varsity program has a record of 89-69 since Vaughan took it over at the start of the 2006-07 season.
"I'm looking forward to representing Kennett this year," Vaughan said. "Our kids have keyed up for it and we are a little more direct in our approach this year. I think the kids have a bit of a mission. Kids will talk all the time, but you hear them say 'we are going to state." That's obviously a goal for every team. You'd love to be there at the end of the year. But we are going to work hard every day to take us a step closer to representing Kennett well every time we go out."
Pictured is the Kennett junior varsity boys basketball team. Pictured front row left to right - Carlos Turner, Joe Pittman, Maliek Parker, Shaquille Taylor, Jessey Childress, Andre Oliver, Jeremy Barnes, Fred Gooden, Jahaida Childress. Back row left to right - Nick Arnett (mgr), Landon Vaughan, Tom Edgington, Michael Richmond, Malik Wallace, Montel Madlock, Nathan Spence, James Parker, August Harris.