Lewis County got their summer games started on Friday at Mason County’s team camp, and they noticed some pieces missing from last year’s group.
But with several returning players from last year’s Eastern Kentucky Conference regular season and tournament championship team, the Lions are hopeful to find players this summer to step up and fill those roles.
“You could tell it was first day. We had some holes out there missing. I saw a lot of things we needed to do and that’s what summer ball’s about, to transition to that team you’re going to have next year,” said Lewis County coach Joe Hampton, who’s entering his 19th season at the helm. “Obviously, like I said, you could tell it was day one. We practiced one day. I’ve got enough kids back that I feel like if I call something, we should be able to run it or at least get close, but you can also tell we haven’t had those repetitions in practice that you definitely need. It was a good start for us.”
The most noticeable piece missing from last year’s team was Tay Offut, a 6-foot-2 forward. Offut averaged 16 points and 10.4 rebounds per game as a senior, taking home both the Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year awards at the EKC banquet in March. He finished his career with 992 points, but his absence was felt most in the rebounding category.
“As I said at the beginning, we noticed a few holes out there, and that was the biggest one, especially on the rebounding,” said Hampton. “He’s that guy that, if we needed a bucket or two, he can get us one, but the rebounding part was our biggest deficiency that we’re going to have to really work on, and that’s a hole Tay left. He was a double-double guy, so a lot of work to do there.”
The Lions will be leaning on the experience of several older players this summer, including rising seniors Zach Robersion, Cameron Ruckel and Seth Wright, as well as rising juniors Sam O’Keefe and Tanner Willis.
“They’ve been through the full varsity schedule, some of them for one year – Seth, Cameron, those guys, Zack two years – so we’ve got some experience there and we need to lean on those guys,” said Hampton.
Hampton is also relying on Stoney Lykins, a 6-foot rising senior, to replace some of the play down low from the graduation of Offut. Wyatt Yates, a rising junior, as well as Kolby McCann and Bailey Thomas, both entering their sophomore seasons, could be making the transition from mainly junior varsity to varsity action this season.
“We’ve got some kids moving up and going through their first run at it, and that’s what’s great about summer ball – you kind of get that season in before the season and help the less-experienced players get some varsity experience,” said Hampton.
McCann was the leading scorer on the JV team last season. He was unable to play Friday due to an injury, but Hampton is hopeful he’ll be able to return before the summer is over.
“He needs to go through this,” said Hampton. “I think he’s a guy that could be a difference maker, maybe a wild card for us next year.”
Lewis County’s summer schedule continued at Rowan County this week. They’ll also be playing games on their home court in Vanceburg and head to Fleming County for games.
“We’re keeping it mainly local this year. We normally go to somewhere in Lexington, Georgetown or something, but we tried to save a little money and keep it local and maybe put that money elsewhere. It’s pretty expensive when you go to those overnight camps,” said Hampton. “We’re still getting games. We’re going to be playing a few less games because we’re not going to those, but we’ll still get out of it what we need to I think by hanging around here.”