By Mark Carpenter
For Coach Aaron Lockhart and his Manchester Greyhounds, the 2013-14 basketball season was a struggle record-wise but also a glimpse into what could be a bright future for the boys in blue and gold. The Hounds finished the season at 4-18, losing their opening round tournament game to North Adams after holding a halftime lead.
“Our season was a season of learning and growing,” said Lockhart. “We were young to start the season and then lost all of our seniors to injuries or illness.”
Lockhart is referring to his only two seniors, Tyler Brummett and Timmy Jones. Brummett went down early with a broken foot which caused him to miss most of the season and Jones was stricken with Crohn’s disease which weakened him considerably and also caused him to miss the majority of his senior campaign.
With their two elder statesmen on the shelf, the Greyhounds got real young real quick and had to make adjustments on the fly.
“We had to adjust,” said Lockhart. “Our point guard became our post player and then we moved others around.”
That point guard was sophomore Sean Frost and and though he did struggle to learn a new position in the paint, he did come on quite strong late in the year, scoring a career high 30 points in a win over Whiteoak. Frost ended the year with an average of 8.5 points per game and was the team’s leading rebounder at 7.7 boards a game.
The biggest offensive threat for the Hounds was junior guard Austin Smith, who spent most of the year as the team’s point guard and led the team in scoring at a 13.1 clip. Smith was also one of the deadliest long-distance shooting threats in the area, hitting 58 three-pointers on the year and shooting 54% from beyond the arc.
Smith was named to the All-SHAC team by the coaches from the Southern Hills Athletic Conference, was named Honorable Mention by the District 14 Coaches Association, and was a Special Mention Associated Press Southeast All-District player.
The injuries to Brummett and Jones meant more playing time for some underclassmen, such as freshman Colton Thornburg, who appeared in 22 games and averaged 7.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. Freshmen Bryan Young (22 games)and Justin Aldridge (16 games) also were forced into varsity action and gained the experience that will become valuable in the years to come.
Sophomore Jordan Freeman moved from the gridiron to the hardwood and filled in well, even as part of the starting lineup at times, getting into 19 contests. The Hounds also got 10 points a game from streaky shooting junior Phillip Thomas, who could light it up from long distance when he went on one of his hot streaks. Thomas nailed 42 three-pointers on the season, playing in all 22 contests.
Even after a four-win season, the Greyhounds are looking at a bright future with all their young talent plus an influx of talent from the junior high, but Lockhart knows the program will miss the leadership of his two departing seniors.
“These two guys were dealt adversity and handled it better than most adults,” said the Manchester coach. “They showed maturity beyond their age. In early January, we didn’t think they were either one going to get to play another game. They continued to show up for practice each day and every game just to support their teammates. I couldn’t have asked for more from both of them.”
“Mother Nature handed us a lot of snow so they were both given a little more time and were able to play on Senior Night which was great for both of them. I am proud of them both and wish them the very best in the future.”
With the 2013-14 season in the rear view mirror, Lockhart is dialed in on the future of the program.
“We competed each night this season and our kids played extremely hard. Our underclassmen got the unique opportunity to play a lot at the varsity level so I feel that our future is very bright.”
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.