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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Confident Jays looking for another state trip

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ryan Parham
CHARLESTON -- Despite the loss of several key contributors from last season's championship team, the Charleston Bluejays are confident they still have the pieces to make a run at another Class 3 title.

"We lost quite a few contributors to that state championship team, about four starters," Charleston head coach Danny Farmer said. "But at the same time my mindset is to try to go back. We're looking forward to the season, but we're not feeling any pressure."

When looking at this year's squad the most noticeable absence is that of last year's leading scoring, Greg Tucker. Tucker served as a leader and offensive force during a 31-2 season that was capped with the Bluejays' 11th championship in school history and first since 2007.

Unlike the year before, when they fell to eventual champion Hogan Prep in the semifinals, Charleston squeezed by Mt. Vernon 58-56 to make it to the title game.

There, they avenged their semifinal loss to Hogan Prep the year before by ousting the defending champions 79-73 in the title game. Tucker led the way with 27 points in his final game as a Bluejay.

On his way to earning first team all-state honors as well as being selected as the Standard Democrat Player of the Year, Tucker average 20.6 points, three rebounds and 2.3 assists per game.

"We know we can't replace Greg," Farmer said. "But we think we can get a bunch of kids that can contribute. We won't be the same type of team, but I think we'll be better in other areas.

"We'll probably be weaker in some of the areas we were strong in last year."

Others departing after their senior season include Aaron Cassell, Krushon Scott and Jamaul Gray.

One area the Bluejays shouldn't have any worries in is on defense. Coming back for his senior campaign is point guard Ryan Parham. Last season Parham was one of the top defenders in southeast Missouri while serving as the primary ball handler and as a leader on a floor full on seniors.

Parham was selected second team all-state in Class 3 after averaging 10.4 points. 4.5 assists and 2.1 rebounds per game.

"He'll take on more of an offensive role," Farmer said of Parham. "Ryan can do whatever he has to do and if there's a need for offense than he's going to be more of an offensive player. We can already see that in practice."

Joining Parham will be a senior heavy group that saw plenty of varsity minutes last season. That includes seniors Trey Watkins, Mike Hull, Sumner Foster and Darrion Carter.

Farmer said those four should join Parham to round out the starting five at the beginning of the year. He added that with so many new faces having to step up in starting roles he expects the Bluejays skill set to change slightly from last year's squad.

"We're going to be a lot stronger inside," Farmer said. "We're going to be better rebounders with Sumner Foster, Darrion Carter and Trey Watkins. Those guys are a lot more athletic than our post people were last year.

"Now skill as far as shooting the ball, we won't shoot it as well. We'll shoot it, but we won't shoot it as well as we shot it last year."

Even with all the turnover in the starting lineup, Watkins sees a veteran group capable of keeping up with last season's success.

"We have a lot of people back and should still be an experienced team," he said. "We were all juniors last year so we've been with them for three years and we practiced with them everyday. So they rubbed off on us pretty good."

Joining the starting five on the varsity roster will be Robert Bogan, Delfinko Bogan, Shandor Webster and Will Davis. Mike Kellum, Darrion Henderson and Mike Coleman round out the squad.

"It's going to be a big difference," said Parham, comparing this year's team to last year's. "But we have some guys that are going to fill those spots and play tough. We'll be alright. We're still the same run-and-gun team. We're going to get up and down the floor fast-paced. Pretty much the same as last year."