November 5, 2010 8:01:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- How does Starkville High''s boys basketball team go about duplicating last season''s state title run?
Instead, head coach Greg Carter is keen to see his 2010-11 squad carve its own niche without 2010 Mr. Basketball Rashad Perkins and explosive point guard Edward Townsel.
Doing so will be incredibly difficult for a team that''s yet to settle on a starting lineup.
But where there''s a basketball in Starkville, there''s talent handling it.
The Jackets, who finished 31-2 and beat Meridian for the Class 6A title last season, return 6-foot-8 forward Gavin Ware and guards Jacolby Mobley and Jaquez Johnson. While Carter knows what he has in those three, he''s got a bench full of athletes who must step up from being role players.
Last season, Carter had a coach''s dream in players like Mike Brand, Calvin Young and Tori Rice, all of whom featured in spots but did so effectively. Whether it was young crashing the boards or Brand knocking down perimeter shots, Carter was confident going 10 deep every game.
But like last season, settling on a rotation will take time.
"It''s important for us to set a lineup to develop chemistry between guys and have a set rotation with the bench guys," Carter said Wednesday. "Last year''s team, we ended up changing the starting lineup ten time, but we always had guys step up and play their roles.
"Now, guys are still feeling their way around trying to figure out where they fit. We''ve got to settle on something soon, but we''ve got to make sure it the right one."
Wednesday, just three days before the Jackets open the season against Noxubee County at the West Point Classic, Carter lamented the team''s sluggish rebounding and defending. Though all but three players are back from last year''s team, defense was a staple Carter hoped would carry over from their title run.
But as he reminded, Starkville''s starting lineup Saturday will feature players who''ve never started before.
"Right now, they''re not ready for that," Carter said. "That''s a lot of responsibility, and it''s hard to simulate that in practice. When that role changes from just being a guy that plays in spots to a guy that has to carry the load, it takes consistency and toughness. I''m not sure we have that just yet."
Starkville must replace the 40 combined points Perkins and Townsel accounted for last season. The leading candidate to become the Jackets'' first option is Ware, who averaged nine points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Ware, who said he''s been working to improve his core strength, is confident he can be a 20-points-per-game scorer.
"I''ve been working in the post with coach Ryan (Rodriguez), all day just going at it," Ware said. "As a captain, I''ll have much more responsibility this year. I know the team will count on me for much more."
Carter makes no bones about the team''s reliance on Ware this season.
"There is no limit to it with what we need from Gavin," Carter said. "He''s going to be a big part with what we do. There''s a lot of emphasis on getting him the ball, and he has to do something with it, whether it''s scoring or finding guys when he''s doubled. He knows that ball is going to be coming to him."
Starkville''s first home game is a state title game rematch against Meridian on Nov. 9.