[Nameplate] Fair ~ 91°F  
Feels like: 96°F
Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2016

Riverbend Classic set

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Kewain Gant and the Charleston Bluejays will open the classic.
NEW MADRID -- The 8th Annual Riverbend Classic takes place on Friday and Saturday at New Madrid County Central High School.

The event will feature three local teams: NMCC, Caruthersville and Charleston.

There are also five out of state teams in this year's Classic. From Arkansas comes Sylvan Hills, Mills High and Pine Bluff. Covington, Tenn., and Byhalia, Miss., will also be at the event.

On Friday, Charleston will play Covington at 4 p.m., followed by Caruthersville versus Pine Bluff at 5:45 p.m. NMCC takes on Sylvan Hills at 7 p.m., then Mills High closes against Byhalia at 8:30 p.m.

On Saturday, Sylvan Hills takes on Caruthersville at 11 a.m., followed by Charleston versus Mills High at 12:45 p.m. Pine Bluff will play Byhalia at 2:30 p.m., then Covington plays NMCC at 4 p.m.

Here is a brief look at each team in this year's field.

New Madrid County Central set a school record last year with 28 wins, placing second in the state. Seven of the nine players on that team were seniors. By the numbers, this year's lineup has just 50 total minutes of varsity experience.

Basically, NMCC is promoting its junior varsity lineup to varsity this year.

The Eagles will look to 5-foot-7 sophomore Malcolm Long to fill in for Dereke Tipler at point guard. Junior Mack Kimble (6-1) will take over for Brian Murph at shooting guard.

NMCC will look to 6-foot-5 junior Edgar Givens and 6-foot-4 junior Vaughn Shepard to control the post, picking up where Ronland Ranson and Derrell Minner left off.

Michael Rose (6-2, so.) and Remond Willis (6-2, jr.) will also see extensive playing time.

Charleston has a few holes to fill, after losing Jordy Mixon, Lezcano Dean, Dontay Clark and Jemorrio Betts to graduation. The Bluejays should be up to the task, returning a few key players along with some promising young talent.

Ashton Farmer, son of head coach Danny Farmer, returns after a breakthrough freshman season, where he averaged nine points and six rebounds a game. Center Kewain Gant is also back, three inches taller at 6-foot-8.

Junior point guard Marcus Biles is another promising player. He is the younger brother of Jeramy and Howard Biles, and is back after sitting out his sophomore year.

Other key players include Deshaundry Hamilton (6-0, sr.), Trentez Lane (5-10, jr.), Dramel Jones (6-4, sr.), and Josh Strayhorn (6-2, jr.).

The Tigers lost standout Bryant Rodgers to graduation, but return Chris Springer off last year's 14-11 team. The multi-sport athlete averaged 18 points a game as a junior, and has already signed a letter of intent to play for Southeast Missouri State University.

The Zebras return four starters from a team that went 15-10 last year. Ronald Moragne is the head coach of the Zebras and he has a 194-91 record in his 11 seasons with Pine Bluff. They are led by 6-foot-3 forward Brandon Walters, who averaged 12 points and eight rebounds per game.

Walters was selected All-State and All-Conference. The Zebras have been 69-21 in the past four seasons.

With an enrollment of 925, Mills High School is regarded as an excellent school with more advanced placement course offerings than any other school in the state of Arkansas.

As strong as Mills is academically, they may be even better on the hardwood. The Comets have won their conference seven out of the past nine seasons. The Comets return four starters including Ole Miss signee Bam Doyne.

Doyne was 2001 Arkansas Sophomore of the year, All-Conference and All-State. In 2002, he was selected as the Gatorade Arkansas Player of the Year as a junior.

Head coach Charles Gillespie has an amazing record at Byhalia of 208-32. His overall record is even more impressive (504-144).

Look for him to add many more wins this year because he returns a corps of juniors that went 20-11 last season with primarily all sophomores.

The main chief for the Indians is 6-foot-4 forward, Bobby Harris who averaged 17 points per game last year. The Indians have nine juniors, two freshmen and two seniors.

Coach Tim Halford had his hands full last season with mostly underclassmen. His boys are looking more like men now, while the bulk of the team is sophomores and juniors. The Chargers were 8-22 last year, but Coach Halford has a career record of 141-76.

The teams' biggest asset is their size. The Chargers have six players over 6-foot-3, and have, what some say, is the best sophomore in Tennessee, in 6-foot-7 Donnell Maben, who was All-District as a freshman.

The Bears return three starters off of an 11-11 campaign in 2002. They are led by Derrick Grant, a 5-foot-9 point guard who averaged 10 points with three assists.

Asa Mason is the returning leading scorer and he is a 6-foot-3 senior that averaged 15 points and 8 rebounds in 2002. Emitt West (6-5) is the big bear in the middle. He averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds in 2002.