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Cougars hold their own at Belmont team camp

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By Dwane Wilder

They may be young, but that doesn’t seem to faze members of the Campbell County High School boy’s basketball program.

With 18 of 22 players either freshmen or sophomores, the Cougars played with poise and purpose last week at the Belmont University summer team camp in Nashville, where they played a combined 46 games in five days in three separate divisions: varsity, B-team and freshman.

“They took everything we threw at them,” said Barry Jones, who is beginning his third year as head coach at Campbell County.

“It was a pretty tough week, but they handled it just fine.”

Campbell County won half of the 12 games it played in the varsity division. The Cougars scored victories over Giles County, Lebanon, Whites Creek, Coffee County, Cascade and Glencliff; but lost to Antioch, Christ Presbyterian Academy, Milan and Blackmon, Todd County, Ky; and Hazel Green, Ala.

“Five of the games we lost came down to the last couple of minutes,” said Jones.

“I’m really excited about this group. We’re so young, we’re like a bunch of minnows.”

Six-foot-seven forward Sean “Stix” Chapman — Campbell County’s lone wolf senior — has changed his last name since season but not his game.

“Stix did a really good job of running the floor,” said Jones.

“He’s been a good leader and a good encourager of the younger players. He is a team-first guy.”

With half of the frontcourt gone from last year’s team, Chapman will be counted upon heavily this season along with Cody Malicoat, who started much of last season as a freshman.

Nick Litton and Tyler Chapman, two more sophomores, will help shore up the post ranks.

“Three of them are 6-foot-5 or taller,” said Jones.

“Nick has given us some flexibility in the paint. He can score and defend inside. We’re pretty strong up front.

“The challenge for us is to get Ethan Simpson and Corey Poteet ready to play.”

Simpson and Poteet are two incoming freshmen that are being looked at to help handle the ball in the backcourt along with starting point guard Lucas Nelson, who is one of only three juniors on the team. The coach expects Simpson and Poteet to be playing major minutes by next February.

Sophomore Chad Wagers — Campbell County top three-point marksman — and Matt Miller will also play prominent roles on the perimeter.

“Making the transition from being a role player to a starter is a big adjustment,” said Jones.

“What we will have to live with are some young mistakes, but I think the perimeter threat will make us harder to defend.

“We went 14-1 at Belmont last year. This year, we had no idea what to expect. I was skeptical that we would win a game. But they way we started the week when we had energy and we had legs, I thought we’re not going to be as bad as everybody thought.”

The Cougars’ junior varsity and freshman teams — both of which had winning records at the Belmont camp — provided further proof that the program was on the upswing.

Campbell County had gotten off to a slow start this summer, falling to host Maryville, William Blount and Lenoir City before beating host Knoxville Webb.

Led by the highly recruited Tyler Hood, Lenoir defeated the Cougars by only six points. Also at Webb’s camp, Campbell County lost a two-point game to Knoxville West, which returns all its players from a team the Cougars beat last year in the opening round of the district tournament.

“We lost our first three games of summer camp, and then we started to pick it up and rally a little bit,” said Jones.

“But that’s what summer camp is all about, to see who can contribute and who’s got potential.

“I’m just really excited about where we’re headed.”