First Presbyterian Christian Academy will start its basketball season Monday, visiting Coastal Home School in Pembroke.
The Highlander boys have lofty goals, wanting to reach another state championship. It’s a goal former head coach Ernie Walthour helped the team attain the past two seasons and one incoming coach Shane Smith said he wants as well.
Smith said this year’s team is small, roughly eight deep, but a majority of the starters are returning from last season.
“We have Domonique Kirkley coming back and he should be our point guard and the leader of the team,” Smith said. “He should be able to handle everything we need done. Ahman Muhammed is coming back. He is 6-foot-6, and he is our center. So we have some size on the inside. Richard Smith is coming back as our forward, but he can also play the wing as well. And we have an incoming freshman, George Mitchell, who will be our shooting guard.”
He said three players coming off the bench will help the team stay fresh, especially during heated games. After last year’s finish as the state runner-up, Smith said he knows the opponents will be placing a bulls-eye target on the Highlanders.
“I’ve watched tape on Frederica, and I’ve watched tape on Memorial, which is the team we lost to in the state championship game last year, and they are in our region. Brentwood has a guard who is a big returning kid and he is pretty good … Those three right there are teams we are going to have to look out for,” he said.
Smith said the boys played on the Coastal Crew Rebels during the off season and have done so for years.
“These kids have been together for a while now,” he said. “The chemistry between them is great, and I think they are looking forward to getting back to the state championship and that is their goal.”
However the coach does anticipate a change in strategy.
“I think we will probably press a little more than they did in the past … I think that will be one major change,” he said.
He said the team’s strength, at least early, will be defense.
“And our offense will come along as we go,” he added. “We will have to set the tone defensively.”
On the girls team, coach Rosby Fraiser said they will have a small team as well and no junior varsity squad. Frasier said only two veterans returned this season, Tyronna Brown and Brooke Standard. Everyone else is new to the team.
Having a small roster, Frasier said the focus is on the basics and on staying conditioned. With fewer bench players to substitute, the girls will need to have the endurance to carry them for entire games.
“Everyone is going to have to play a lot of minutes … So I want to keep them conditioned, and I want them to go out there and have fun, and in the end, we are going to be fine,” Frasier said.
The games in Pembroke are set to begin at 4:30 and 6 p.m.