By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Basketball life in the Mountain State Athletic Conference is tough. Cabell Midland, Woodrow Wilson, Capital, George Washington are just some of the schools that the Princeton Tigers must face during regular season. Add non-conference foes Bluefield, Greenbrier East and Shady Spring and Princeton will run the gauntlet throughout the 2011-12 hoops season.
Ernest Gilliard is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Tigers.
“The MSAC is always tough and we have a newcomer in Winfield that’s a very well-coached basketball team,” Gilliard said. “The month of December is going to be a very challenging month for us and that will be a month that will help us establish some identity and find out exactly what we need to do to get where we want to go.”
According to Gilliard, preseason practices have been going well but there are some issues to be addressed.
“I’m still concerned about our intensity on the defensive end of the floor,” Gilliard said.
The team returns its leading scorer from 2011-12 and has some size inside.
“We’ve got some pretty good talent returning,” Gilliard said. “Ryan Meadows is our leading scorer and point guard, Hunter Walters has great shooting range and Kyle Caron, who started for us some last year. We have a pretty good offensive group. We’ve got some pretty good firepower from the perimeter, kids that are able to put the ball on the floor and attack the basket, so that’s a plus.
“Inside we’re hoping for some consistency out of our two bigs, 6-5 junior Zen Clements and then we’ve got 6-7 sophomore Aaron Ferguson. Those two guys both started in the post for us and they should give us some inside punch.”
Other players Gilliard looks to contribute include Derek Jennelle, Lamont Lee, Ashton O’Dell, Logan Angell, Storm McPherson and Ryan Rogers.
“We’ve got seven or eight kids that are going to be the depth of our rotation and I think all of those kids are very capable of contributing at any time,” Gilliard said.
The Tigers open the season Dec. 5 at Shady Spring, then host South Charleston, visit Winfield and host Nitro before hosting their annual Christmas Tournament on Dec. 21-22 which will feature a couple of new teams in the two-day event.
“We lost a couple of staple teams from our tournament, Bluefield and PikeView,” Gilliard said. “We’re going to have Webster County who was in the AA state tournament last year, Patrick Henry Roanoke and James Monroe.”
Webster County and Patrick Henry will square off in the first game of the tournament at 5:30 p.m. on the 21st, followed by the Princeton-James Monroe match-up. The losers and winners of the first night’s action will take on each other on Dec. 22, with the first game beginning at 5:30.