Loaded Devils aiming for breakout season

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By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

Wikipedia defines juggernaut as a literal or metaphorical force regarded as mercilessly destructive and unstoppable.

Sounds like a good description of this year’s Etowah boys basketball team’s potential.

The current Blue Devils truly have a chance to be something special.

“They play hard and they play together,” coach James Graves said. “I’m thrilled with not just the abilities but with how they approach the game. They really want to win.”

With three starters returning from last year and a full bench, Graves is even more upbeat than usual about his team’s chances.

Point guard Darius Bush leads the show – and how.

In the early going, Bush is averaging 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists per game.

“He’s extremely athletic, and I think he’s got a good chance to play at the next level,” Graves said. “He’s the engine that keeps us going.”

A ton of the scoring is coming from 3-point land, with Isaac McKinney averaging 12 points per game and Leonard Aaron posting 10 points per game. Both rely heavily on the outside shot.

There are two “inside-out” players starting in – Chris Steele and Dequan Davis. Both are capable of hitting 3s and both can drive to the basket.

“(Steele) can play any position,” Graves said. “He’s that good and he can shoot from outside or go to the hole, whichever is open. He can handle the ball as well as a lot of point guards. We move him around to different positions, trying to get mismatches.”

If defended by a smaller player, the 6-3 Steele is quick enough to get inside for layups and rebounds. If he’s guarded by someone his size or taller, he can take it outside and get open for 3s.

Davis is built from the same mold. Also 6-3, he can jump to block shots or get rebounds.

“(Davis) is perhaps the most athletic player on the team,” Graves said. “He jumps like he’s a lot taller.”

Sixth man Dominic Pinson is more of a slasher. Being able to handle the ball well, he likes to drive to the basket.

There will be a lot of short courts for the Blue Devils to negotiate on offense, as they play a frenetically paced full-court defense.

Getting someone in foul trouble may not help the opposition, either, as Graves can boast of having 14 players and another due back after Christmas.

“If I had the chance, there are a lot more than those six who deserve the attention,” Graves said.

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