DUNLAP — There are young and inexperienced boys high school basketball teams in the area.
And then there is the Concord Minutemen.
Second-year head coach Derrick DeShone returns just one starter and two players that saw much action last season, when the Minutemen finished 7-16 after starting the season 0-7. One of their late-season wins came against then-No. 1 (2A) Westview.
"We're inexperienced, young, raw and a work in progress, but I can tell you all these kids have bought in to the program,'' DeShone said. "These kids are coachable and I believe they'll come along as the year goes on. I don't know if it will be a month from now or two months, but you'll see improvement.''
The biggest loss was forward-center Michael Johnson, who averaged 22.2 points and 6.8 rebounds-a-game for the Minutemen last season and was also an outstanding free throw shooter. He was a first-team selection for The Truth's All-Area team. Add sharp-shooter Drew McDougle and the quickness of Shemari Southern and you realize how much offense DeShone will be searching for.
The only returning starter is sophomore point guard Jack D'Arcy, who helped steady the Minutemen's offense last season when he was brought up from the JV team.
"Our turnovers as a team dropped by half when Jack came up,'' DeShone said. "Last year, we just needed him to run the show and take care of the ball because we had kids that could shoot. This year, he'll have more responsibilities because he won't have those seniors to lean on. But he's a heady kid and I know he'll be able to handle it.
"You could be picking a team anywhere and he'd always be one of your first picks.''
Senior Braedon Taylor returns after coming off the bench last season for the Minutemen. The 6-foot-3 Taylor we be counted on not only as a solid shooter, but also for his leadership ability for the young team.
Another senior, Paxton Starrett, saw a little action with the varsity last season at the guard spot and is also back.
What DeShone does have is good size, led by 6-foot-2 Griffin Swartout in the middle.
"Swartout will be big for us this year and he doesn't have to score a lot to do that,'' DeShone said. "He started at center for the football team all season and he'll bring some of that toughness onto the basketball floor. He'll be a vocal leader and do a lot of the gritty things inside.''
Two 6-5 players, junior Payton Fish and sophomore Zaven Koltookian will also be in the mix in the middle for Concord. Fish, who has worked his way up to the varsity after not making the team in junior high, adds length, while Koltookian adds more muscle with Swartout. Sophomore Amarion Moore, another CHS football player, adds more length inside at 6-foot-3.
"I think the way the game is played now, being able to shoot the 3-pointer is important,'' DeShone said. "But for the next couple years, we'll be playing through the post offensively. We did that some last year with Johnson, but it will be a bit different this year. We don't have a bunch of ballhandlers that can drive, so we'll play to our strength.''
DeShone is also high on the quickness of 5-8 sophomore guard Andres Dixon, who will be part of the guard mix along with Jaxon Williams and Gavin Smith.
"Dixon is a soccer play and he can cause some chaos because he's a quick guy,'' DeShone said. "He'll go at the same fast pace whether we're up 100 or down 10. Smith is a tennis player, which adds to our varsity-playing experience, but playing basketball with the fans so close is a little different experience.''
"I truly believe the ingredients are there for us to be successful, we just have to build it the right way. There aren't shortcuts and we know it's a process that we'll have to go through. We're young and there really aren't older kids around to help show the way ... our kids have to learn those lessons as we go through the adversity of a varsity season.