PORTAGEVILLE -- With a deep bench and older players to fill it, the Portageville Bulldogs are hoping experience plays a big role in the upcoming season.
The Bulldogs will dress five seniors and nine juniors after last season ended with a 16-8 record and a district championship loss to eventual Class 2 state runner-up Bernie.
"With that many bodies, our main concern is getting them to play hard and play together," Portageville coach Jason Irby said. "We've really been pleased with how hard they've been working. How that will come to fruition on the court, I don't know yet. But, as far as leadership and good work ethic from our seniors, we're getting that, which is a huge plus."
The Bulldogs lost their top three players from a year ago in Fred Treadwell, Rondraus Booker and Jake Young.
Treadwell led the Bulldogs with a hefty 18.6 points per game as well as 4.5 rebounds and three steals. The 6-2 guard was Portageville's primary ball handler and best perimeter defender on most occasions.
"We're losing a lot there," Irby said about Treadwell. "It's hard to replace because he did so much for us."
As for Booker and Young, the two patrolled the paint looking for every rebound they could find. Booker led the team with 12.8 rebounds a contest while adding 11.3 points per game.
"Those guys controlled the boards for us a lot of times," said Irby. "That's going to be an area we're going to have to continually concentrate on because we're not real big. We've got some scrappy kids so hopefully we can hold our own there."
What they do have coming back is one of the area's quickest and athletic guards.
Tevin Walker, a 5-11 senior, averaged 16.7 points a game for the Bulldogs to go along with 4.2 steals and three assists per game.
"He's extremely athletic," said Irby. "He's been working really hard on his jump shot and he's improved some of the other aspects of his game. I feel like he can have a big year as long as he stays healthy.
"He's definitely a difference maker and we're counting on him for a lot of things this year."
Other seniors Irby will be counting on are returners Steve Buchannon, Jansen Darst, Eric Simmons, Zach Birdwell and junior Dominique Walker.
"We're just trying to base everything off of our seniors," Irby said. "We're going to let them lead the way for us. If our kids will play hard and play together, good things will come."