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McCord finds himself with another young team at Central
In his first season as Central coach, Derek McCord started five sophomores and suffered his only losing season in his 15-year coaching career.
Now in his fourth year with the Tigers, McCord again may have to rely on some younger players if his team is going to be successful. The Tigers return one starter in 6-foot senior Eli Harris, who missed parts of last season due to injury. Gone are five of Central's top six players.
"It will be one of the most inexperienced teams I've coached other than my first year here when I started five sophomores," McCord said.
Gone from last year's team is a bulk of the Tigers' size, including Scott Chestnutt (6-8), Mitch Craft (6-3), Todd Obergoenner (6-3) and Jake Knepp (6-2).
"I think it goes in cycles. We're in a cycle right now where we're not very big," McCord said. "We don't have a lot of size. We'll have to find other areas of the game to capitalize on."
Central's returning players are all 6-3 or shorter. Besides Harris, Central returns 5-10 senior Tyrone Reece, 6-3 junior Garrett Ozbun and 6-2 junior Anthony Hempstead. Not only did the Tigers lose much of their size, but much of the scoring left as well, including Ryan Delph, the team's leading scorer last year who is now at Mineral Area College.
"We graduated around 90 percent of our scoring," McCord said. "Our only returning starter is Eli, and he missed half the year."
Alex Ray and Tyler Griffin are the only other seniors on the roster. Ray, a guard, likely will see considerable playing time.
McCord said one good thing about being young is that the group will only get better.
"I think one of the positive things is we'll be a team that will continue to improve," he said.
Central's schedule will not do the team any favors. The Tigers open at the Farmington Tournament on Monday, then play in the Northwest/Mobil "On the Run" Classic.
"We're really going to get some big tests early," McCord said.
The Tigers will play much of the early season on the road or at neutral sites. Central has only one home game before Christmas and will play at home only twice in the first month of the season.
"Theoretically, our first eight games are on the road counting the two tournaments, so we really have to hit the ground running," McCord said.
Following the Tigers' down year in McCord's first season, Central followed with back-to-back 17-win seasons. McCord hopes this young team can bounce back quickly.
"You're going to have a lot of underclassmen get a lot of valuable experience," he said. "Hopefully it's going to pay off the next few years."