The last time Smackover qualified for the state tournament was back in 2016, but with a senior-laden roster that also has plenty of size and athleticism, coach Caleb Spradlin believes the Bucks have the opportunity to take the next step.
Smackover will begin the 2022-23 season Monday at the Fountain Lake Tournament.
“With six seniors, I am hoping that our experience will help us take the next step,” Spradlin said. “I really like our overall team size. I see us starting five guys that will be over six-feet tall. We are really working hard on our outside shooting. We have to be more consistent from the 3-point line, which will open up the paint even more for us.”
Senior D’Kylan Hildreth has been the Bucks’ leading scorer in each of the last two years.
“His versatility to score at all three levels on the floor makes him a tough matchup for teams,” Spradlin said.
Fellow senior Daylon Curley will be counted on to knock down outside shots.
“He gained a lot of confidence over the summer as a primary scorer,” Spradlin said. “We are counting on him to be able to stretch the floor for us with his outside shooting.”
Senior RJ Boone is expected to be the team’s point guard.
“His basketball IQ is very high and his size creates a mismatch for the other team,” Spradlin said. “We will be able to post him up against smaller guards.”
Senior Dayton Grant gives the Bucks versatility in the post.
“He has really worked on his footwork in the low post and is one of our better perimeter shooters,” Spradlin said.
The Bucks will be relying on senior Jarius Burgie’s presence on both ends of the floor.
“He is relentless at attacking the rim and is one of our better on-ball defenders,” Spradlin said.
Juan Ellingson, also a senior, give the Bucks a presence down low.
“He is a big, strong kid who takes pride in rebounding and being a force around the rim,” Spradlin said.
For Spradlin, the experience the Bucks have is a major key to the season.
“We return six seniors who have played a lot of basketball for us over the last couple of years,” Spradlin said.
“Three of them have started on the varsity team since their freshman year.”
The 8-3A stands to be stout again this year with Dumas, McGehee and Drew Central ranking as three of the top teams in the 3A ranks.
“The conference is loaded once again,” Spradlin said. “Dumas was the state runner-up last season and they return four of their five starters. McGehee lost in the state semifinals to Dumas and should be solid again.
“Drew Central and Lake Village both made the state tournament. If you can make it out of this conference, you will have a chance to compete with anyone else in 3A.”
After going 9-12 last year and seeing their season end in the district tournament, Spradlin is hoping the Bucks can reach the postseason.
“Our goal is to make it to the postseason,” Spradlin said. “Make it to a regional tournament and then to the state tournament. We definitely have our work cut out for us, but I feel like this team has the right makeup to reach that goal.”
If the Bucks are to reach their goals, Spradlin said staying healthy will be a major factor.
“Like any year, we will need to stay healthy,” Spradlin said. “Having success early in the season could help us find the confidence we need for conference play.”