With the Jacksonville Indians and the Troup Tigers scheduled to see their first action of the season Friday night, the new high school buys basketball season will officially be under way for all of the local and area boys teams, with the exception of Rusk, who gets its season rolling on Monday in the Union Hill Tournament.
The Mark Alexander era will get under way at 7:15 p.m. Friday when the Tribesmen face off against Brownsboro.
Alexander, the son of Jacksonville coaching legend John Alexander, is taking over for Brent Kelley who left to become the coach of the Whitehouse Wildcats in late summer.
Jacksonville and Whitehouse are predicted by many to be the top dogs in District 16-4A, and one can never dismiss John Tyler from those discussions as well.
The Indians were hit hard by graduation, but return several players that were key contributors or role players last year.
Jacksonville will be looking for Raybon Riden (6'1”), Daytron Thompson (6'0) and Charles Kendrick (6'3”) to step up to fill some of the holes as well as to provide leadership this season.
There should be several new faces on the varsity roster from a junior varsity team that went 21-6 a year ago.
In District 19-3A look for the Rusk Eagles to contend for a post season berth (along with Mexia, Fairfield and Palestine) in the Eagles' second season under head coach Zach Allison.
Allison is expected to have the services of all-district players Ray Foreman (6'0”) and fellow senior Taylon Sturns, with guards D. J. Glenn and Jay Johnson expected to make significant contributions for the Red and Black this winter as well.
With a little luck and good health the Bullard Panthers could be right in the thick of things in District 16-3A.
The Panthers have a handful of players that saw heavy duty at the varsity level last year.
Keep an eye on Landon Beckham (6'0”) and and Hunter Landrum, a 6'3” forward/post to lead Bullard this time around.
The Panthers, who are coached by Shane Chambless, are 0-2 so far and have lost to Lindale and Grace Community.
Promising seasons forthcoming for Troup, New Summerfield, Alto and Brook Hill
The Troup Tigers, who host Grace Community at 7:30 p.m. Friday, are coming off of a 22-win season last year under head coach Jody Sorey. Although the Tigers graduated several key contributors from a year ago, there should be enough experience coming back to keep the Tigers competing for a District 18-2A crown once again.
Returnees to watch include Blake Lynch, Marcus Kincade, Brandon Hearon and Anfernee Ross. Lynch missed the last several weeks of football season due to an upper extremity injury that required surgery, so there are question marks regarding his return. Lynch's eight points and nine rebounds a game average from a year ago would be hard for Troup to replace.
In District 21-A-I, the New Summerfield Hornets and the Yellowjackets from Alto appear to be the cream of the crop in the circuit.
The Hornets have a new coach in Sunny Hardy, a University of North Texas graduate who is from Kilgore.
New Summerfield is 2-3 thus far this season and has been playing a very challenging non-conference schedule.
Francisco Parra, Angel Marroquin, Wendl Thomas and Case Wilkerson are the players to watch for the Hornets, who went 10-0 in district last year.
Alto returns a half dozen studs off of last year's district runner-up squad and could make some serious noise this winter.
Seniors Anfernee Black, Jacolby Whitaker, Zac Sturns and junior Leroy Lewis can ball with the best of them.
Brook Hill hoops fans should have plenty of reasons to pack the gym this season as a fine crop of young, but experienced, talent return off of a unit that made it all the way to the TAPPS, Division II state quarterfinal round last winter.
Players of impact for the Guard include juniors Chase McDermott, Grant Hanks and Phillip Kitt. Sophomore Alex Hale is also back and is another one to keep an eye on.
Wally Dawkins, one of East Texas' most successful hoops coaches, is back as Guard bench boss this season.
Brook Hill should benefit from a brutal non-district schedule that is designed to tighten the team up for conference play.