Central plans to create chances with speed

Monday, November 19, 2007
Central's Jajuan Bell is one of six returning players who earned starts last season for the Tigers. (AARON EISENHAUER ~ photos@semissourian.com)

Central coach Drew Church enters his second season with basically the same philosophy he had last year -- compensate for a lack of team size with team speed.

"We're going to look to push the basketball and try to get up and down the court," Church said. "We've got a lot of quick guys who are smaller."

Again, Central has a number of guards on its roster. But one big positive for the Tigers is that many of these players gained valuable experience at the varsity level last season, which could be helpful as they try to improve on their 12-15 record.

The Tigers return six players who all received considerable playing time and starts last winter, including 5-foot-9 senior Jajuan Bell. He will play a combination of point guard and shooting guard this season.

"He is very, very quick," Church said. "He can shoot the basketball really well and he can penetrate. He can get people open. He can do a lot of things."

Other players Church foresees being involved in the offense include Garrett Pannier, who shoots the ball well from the wing; Chase Johnson, who is quick and could help score easy baskets off turnovers; and 6-3 Anthony Watts, who Church said has looked good so far in practice.

"He [Watts] is really shooting the ball well," Church said. "He can shoot from outside, but he's also real smart. He can shot fake and get to the basket."

Although Church insists his team will again need to use its speed to be successful, the Tigers have added a few bigger bodies this year to help out around the basket and to complement 6-7 Landon Ewers.

Church said Ewers, Pannier and newcomers 6-4 junior Rick Russell and 6-5 freshman Zach Boerboom will all get their chance to earn time at the forward/center position.

Central also has another tall freshman on the varsity roster in 6-4 Andrew Williams.

"That gives us some height, but not a whole lot," Church said.

Derek Walker will return as one of the Tigers' top defensive players. Church will use him as his best defender. Church said he has yet to decide which defense he'll use the most, but did say his team will press some and use some regular defense.

And as for the outlook on the season as a whole, Church speaks positively.

"I'm not going to throw out a number or anything, but we're expecting to have a pretty good season," Church said. "We've got a good group of kids to work with. I think our biggest strength this year is that the kids are willing to learn and they are just putting it all on the table."

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