As Parkers Chapel opens the 2022-23 season, coach Josh Langley has plenty of pieces to the puzzle, but trying to find who fits where is an ongoing process.
The Trojans start their season tonight against Hamburg before facing Drew Central on Thursday.
Parkers Chapel won only five games and were eliminated in the first round of the district tournament last year.
With Jaylen Gray working at point guard, Chris Greer at shooting guard and Elijah Brown at center, the Trojans have a trio of players back, and Langley said they will be counted on to lead the team.
“These three guys have the most experience on the team and are going to have to be our leaders,” Langley said. “Chris and Jaylen both do a really good job at attacking the basket and are both capable of knocking down shots. We moved Chris to the two this summer to let him play off the ball a little more to help him get some more looks from three. Elijah is hard to handle inside and we hope to use him more inside this year and get him more involved offensively.”
The backcourt has some depth beyond Gray and Greer.
“Those guys are really interchangeable,” Langley said of Gray and Greer. “Will Hardy, Iasiah Gray, Ashton Moss and Peyton Hicks are guys that could give us some breathers handling the ball as well.”
The forward spots are somewhat unsettled, but Langley said two players have emerged for the starting spots.
“Ethan Mayweather and Dyson Dougan are pushing hard for the starting roles at the three and four,” Langley said. “Hardy, Landon Black, Ryder Goodwin, AJ Harris, Eli McNabb, Jordis Battisto, Tanner Hazelwood and Cade Fennell will all battle for minutes at the two, three and four. It’s going to be one of those things where it’s week to week on who is playing better.”
In addition to Brown, Carlos Rodriguez is also working at center with several others in the mix for playing time.
“Jackson Dison, Vishwa Krishnan, and Isaiah Collier are not far behind,” Langley said. “Payton Willeford is a guy that was playing really well for us at the end of last season, but has been battling an injury so we are easing him back into it. He has looked good in what he has been able to do so far.”
Langley said defense will be a major key for the Trojans this season.
“Our strength this year is going to have to be team defense,” Langley said. “We are not there yet, but we are putting a big emphasis on defense. I think that our biggest strength right now is our ability to get to the rim. We have several guys that can really attack the basket.”
One area of concern for Langley is the lack of experience the Trojans have.
“One weakness that we are going to have is lack of experience,” Langley said. “Outside of Greer, Gray, and Brown, Willeford is the only other guy with a lot of game experience. I’m very interested to see who is going to step up out of the junior and sophomore classes.
“I think we have some depth this year if they will all play to the level I believe they can play. Another weakness is perimeter shooting. Last year we struggled to hit the three and defenses were able to take advantage of that. We have shot the ball much better in practice, but until we do it in a game, it’s going to be a concern of mine.”
As far as the 8-2A is concerned, Langley expects it to be difficult to navigate through.
“Conference is going to be extremely tough again this year,” Langley said. “We have several good teams and programs that we compete against. We lost Hampton, Bearden, Lafayette County and Spring Hill and gained Rison and Ouachita.”
Although he has a young roster, Langley said his expectations are high.
“I told the kids from day one that my expectations were going to be high and they are going to have to work hard to reach those expectations,” Langley said. “So far they have bought into that and we have had some really competitive practices.”
For the Trojans to have success, Langley said there were several factors for his team.
“In order for us to have success, we are going to have to play great team defense, execute offensively and not turn the ball over,” Langley said.
“Turnovers and rebounding hurt us last year, so those things are going to have to improve for us to have success.”