The 2014 Leesville men’s basketball squad is back practicing and ready to make a run for the CAP-8 championship again. However, it’s a new season, and with a new season comes new faces.
In this case, many new faces.
The varsity basketball squad returns just one senior this year. In fact, they are returning only four players from last years team: Ben Zemonek, Jonathan Mebane, Alex Hunter and Blair Simpson. The former three are all underclassmen.
Mebane is a sophomore and Zemonek is a junior this year, both of whom are 6’3” shooting guards. Hunter, 5’8”, is only a sophomore. He plays point guard, arguably the central piece of the offense. That being the case, the team features no returning seniors, a factor that many teams would consider a disadvantage.
But head coach Russ Frazier doesn’t think this is a setback; he thinks it might be to their advantage.
“Some people would think this is a major negative, but I couldn’t disagree more,” said Frazier. “Seniors are great and all, and we’ve had some good ones the past two years, but it’s all about leadership and no one said the leaders had to be seniors.”
“Big Ben and J-Meb are going to be huge for this season, not only playing ball but also using their leadership skills. I’m pumped.”
Mebane and Zemonek played decent minutes together last year on a Pride team that posted a record over .500, finishing off at a solid 14-12 overall. The team reached the state playoffs for its second year in a row under Frazier, ultimately beating Durham Jordan in the first round but falling to Fayetteville Seventy-First in the second round.
But with a team that is expecting big things despite the lack of seniority, Zemonek and Co. will have to step up not just on the court, but off of it as well.
“I’m excited about the challenge this is going to be for us,” said Zemonek. “It’s going to be interesting jumping into a leadership role right out of the gate but I’m down and ready to go. We are definitely not worried about the lack of seniors; we actually have embraced it and just want to win games.”
Mebane shared similar excitement for the season and his new role.
“I’m hyped about what we have the chance to do this year,” he said. “Every year is a new season, and we have to the chance to start over and achieve our goal of winning games, one at a time. I am going to be ready to help my teammates figure out their roles and help us get to that goal of winning, whatever it takes.”
Cap-8 teams all around will be hungry for the chance to play against the Pride, as many coaches will naturally think it’s an off year for Leesville, considering the lack of seniors. As far as Frazier is concerned, however, “Competition is competition. As long as we have the guys going at it night in, night out, and the Loonies coming out to support, it’ll be fun to watch.”