By the end of the 2012-13 boys basketball season, John Tyler started five guys who played prominent roles in the football team's deep playoff run that lasted until mid-December.
This year, with four all-district football and basketball players having graduated, Lions coach Cedeno Clark is looking forward to having the majority of his team available from the first game, which is 7:30 p.m. today in Marshall.
Tri-District 16-4A MVP Tyus Bowser, first-teamers Greg Ward and Darion Flowers and second-teamer Fred Ross are gone. This year's roster is waiting on only three players to return from football as the season gets underway.
"They won two district championships and played for a third one, so there's a great deal of talent you're losing," Clark said. "But the direction the program is going now, we're pretty excited about the upcoming season."
The Lions went 15-15 last year, surging late to finish 8-2 in District 16-4A, highlighted by ending Jacksonville's 31-0 start to the season.
While the Lions will be happy to welcome back football players Jordan Caldwell (co-offensive MVP), Isaac Warren (Newcomer of the Year) and Rodney Bendy, Clark has 11 players to begin the year he thinks can maintain their starting jobs throughout the year.
"These guys have grown tremendously; if they keep working it may stay that way," Clark said. "That's the direction we're trying to rely on."
Guard/forward Keaunte Humber is the team's leading returning scorer after putting up 10.6 per game to earn second-team all-district honors. The 6-4 senior will likely start at small forward in a starting five that includes two seniors, two juniors and a sophomore.
J'Khari Lewis, a junior, will start at point guard next to senior Darren Farmer at the 2. Starting in the post will be sophomore Jacob Owens-Bush and junior J'Michael Jasper, who both received playing time at the start of last season.
Others expected to contribute include sophomore forward Patrick Williams, sophomore guard Tavian Teal, senior post Kevron Jackson, junior guard/forward Ken'Darrian Johnson, senior guard Jaylon Stewart and junior guard Martese Christian.
"We're still young as far as varsity experience but the way our numbers are we're farther ahead than last year," Clark said.
Owens-Bush and Jasper are 6-1 and 6-3, respectively, so JT won't have a whole lot of size inside, though they'll be boosted when 6-4 Bendy joins the team. The Lions will look to get their transition game going on offense and utilize their athleticism on defense.
"We're looking to be athletic, move to the ball, real scrappy," Clark said of his defense.
John Tyler plays Robert E. Lee at Wagstaff Gymnasium on Nov. 22 and has a non-district date at tradition-rich Flower Mound Marcus on Nov. 26. The Lions will play in two tournaments: the Craig Bowers Invitational in Royse City (Dec. 5-7) and the Wagstaff Classic (Dec. 26-28).
District 16-4A play begins Jan. 10 against Nacogdoches in the Lions Den. The season-finale is at defending league champ Jacksonville on Feb. 11.
John Tyler Lions
Coach: Cedeno Clark
2012-13 record: 15-15 (8-2 District 16-4A)
Last playoff appearance: 2013 (lost in area playoff to Lucas Lovejoy, 58-40)
Starting five: PG J'Khari Lewis (6-0 Jr.), SG Darren Farmer (5-10 Sr.), SF Keaunte Humber (6-4 Sr.), PF Jacob Owens-Bush (6-1 So.), P J'Michael Jasper (6-3 Jr.)
What's New: The Lions graduated a group that helped JT win two district titles, including Tyus Bowser, Greg Ward, Darion Flowers and Fred Ross. However they return a co-district offensive MVP (Jordan Caldwell) and the All-East Texas Newcomer of the Year (Isaac Warren), though they won't join the team until after football season. As has been the case in recent years, JT will receive a boost after the football team's playoff run ends, but Clark has 11 other players who he thinks can more than hold their own before then.
Offensive outlook: The Lions will be a transition-oriented team, although they'll be capable of running a half-court offense as well. Clark said he expects his team to have balanced scoring. JT won't rely on one guy to score 20 points per game, instead expecting anyone on the squad to go off on any given night.
Defensive outlook: What the Lions lack in size, they'll make up for with athleticism and effort, getting after teams with scrappy, hard-nosed defense. Clark hopes to have a team that's versatile enough to play different types of defense depending on the opposition. "That's what I would like for us to be, of course we're not there yet," Clark said. "By time heart of the season comes, that's my goal."
Team strengths: John Tyler has a bevy of multitalented players who can be effective at multiple positions. Even role players off the bench can come in to play various spots on the floor, giving the Lions added depth throughout the roster.
2013-14 John Tyler Lions Roster
No. Name Ht Class Pos.
0 J'Khari Lewis 6-0 Jr. G
1 Martese Christian 5-8 Jr. G
2 Jordan Caldwell 6-0 Sr. G
3 Tavian Teal 5-10 Soph. G
4 Isaac Warren 6-1 Jr. G
5 Patrick Williams 6-1 Soph. F
10 Rodney Bendy 6-4 Jr. P
11 Jaylon Stewart 5-10 Sr. G
12 Keaunte Humber 6-4 Sr. G/F
21 Jacob Owens-Bush 6-1 Soph. F
22 Kevron Jackson 6-3 Sr. F/P
24 Darren Farmer 5-10 Sr. G
25 J'Michael Jasper 6-3 Jr. P
32 Ken'Darrian Johnson 6-2 Jr. G/F
2013-14 John Tyler Lions Basketball Schedule
Nov. 12 at Marshall 7:30
Nov. 15 Pleasant Grove 7:30
Nov. 19 Gladewater 7:30
Nov. 22 vs. Robert E. Lee# 7:30
Nov. 25 Athens 3:30
Nov. 26 at Flower Mound Marcus 3:30
Dec. 3 Mesquite Poteet 7:30
Dec. 5-7 Craig Bowers Invitational$ TBA
Dec. 10 Greenville 7:30
Dec. 16 Longview 7:30
Dec. 20 Grace 7:30
Dec. 26-28 Wagstaff Classic# TBA
Jan. 3 at Texas High 3:30
Jan. 10 Nacogdoches* 7:30
Jan. 14 at Whitehouse* 7:30
Jan. 17 Corsicana* 7:30
Jan. 21 Jacksonville* 7:30
Jan. 24 at Lindale* 7:30
Jan. 28 at Nacogdoches* 7:30
Jan. 31 Whitehouse* 7:30
Feb. 4 at Corsicana* 7:30
Feb. 7 Lindale* 7:30
Feb. 11 at Jacksonville* 7:30
* — District 16-4A game
# — At Tyler Junior College
$ — In Royse City