Panthers looking to make strides


 By Gene Stanley/Sports Correspondent

“A little bit better than last year.”

Those are head coach Kevin Troup’s words on starting the boy’s basketball season at Southside High.

Troup has every reason to believe those words, too. Last season, the Panthers were freshman and sophomore-oriented, so a lot of sophomores and juniors will get significant playing time this year.

“Two years ago, we had a team that had 16 seniors,” Troup said. “Since their graduation, we’ve been doing a good job of growing up.”

The 2011-12 Panthers wound up at 14-15.

Don’t get the impression that there are no seniors, as Troup will have three upperclassmen at his disposal.

“We would’ve had only two, but Justin Nichols moved in from Guntersville,” he said. “It’s always good to have seniors, but leadership is more important, no matter who it comes from. Every team has a leader or two to emerge, either in preseason or in play. We have several who I think can be good leaders.”

Three of last year’s starters – Kyle Mann, Drew Mullinax and Chris Leonhardt – will return and are the team’s three guards. Mullinax and Leonhardt tied for the team lead in 3-point shooting last season. And Mann is the point guard, so the rest of the team is already looking at some on-court leadership.

After those three players?

“The rest of the team is by committee right now, until we figure out who fits best in what role,” Troup said.

There won’t be a lot of height this year.

Troup recounted that he doesn’t have one really tall player but that there are a lot of them in the 6-3 to 6-5 range.

“We had a great offseason and they have worked hard in the weight room,” Troup said. “We’ll be stronger and won’t tire as easily as last year.

“You can tell by looking at some of them, by how much muscle they’ve added since last season.”

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