Meet the Vikings Set for Tonight
Next Monday the Union Pines boys’ basketball team begins its 2012-13 season with a home opener against the 4-A Terry Sanford Bulldogs.
Before the Union Pines hoops campaign officially tips at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Bob Ward Gymnasium, third-year head coach Nick Boney and his 3-A Viking squad will have faced four different preseason opponents.
Saturday the Vikings took part in the Chat-Lee Jamboree hosted by Southern Lee in Sanford, playing three games against 2-A Carrboro, 4-A Cape Fear and 4-A South View.
Union Pines will entertain the 4-A Pinecrest Patriots in a scrimmage at 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday) that will serve as the main event in what is being billed as Meet the Vikings night in Cameron.
Last season Union Pines went 13-13 overall on the hardwood and 6-6 in 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference play to place third in the league standings. The Vikings qualified for the state playoffs but were eliminated in the first round by the Westover Wolverines.
This season the Vikings return seven players from that squad, including senior guards Matthew Maness and Mike Quick, senior power forwards Dionte Williams and Shakeem McRae, junior center Luke Davis, and sophomore guards Tyler Packer and Malik Crawford.
While that group serves as a large core of returners, Union Pines will be without its top three scorers from a year ago. As a team the Vikings averaged 54.8 points a game last season, with 39.7 of those points coming from the perimeter trio of Parris Manning, Braxton Ross and Leshun Brower.
Manning, one of the three team captains, led the team in scoring with 17 points a game. He has graduated and signed to play at the next level with Cape Fear Community College. Ross, who averaged 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds as a junior, transferred to Trinity Christian. Brower averaged 9.5 points per game at the shooting guard position as a senior.
Among Union Pines’ seven returners, Maness, the team’s starting point guard, was the only player to average more than three points per game. On the season the sharp-shooting guard with deep three-point range averaged 8.5 points and 2.2 assists and sank 40 of his 83 attempts from downtown.
Williams had the next highest point average at 3.3, followed by Crawford at 2.4, Davis at 1.8, and Packer at 1.4.
While a vast majority of his scoring is gone from a season ago, Boney is optimistic that his team will be able to put the ball in the basket at the rate and efficiency needed to be competitive.
“Our offseason starting from this summer has been great,” said Boney. “The guys formed a bond over that time and had a lot of senior leadership from Matthew Mannes. That has carried over to our preseason workouts with the guys putting in hard work in the gym and with the weights.
“I would say as a team we have gotten better in terms of chemistry and leadership from where we were at the end of last year. Scoring will be much more of a shared aspect for us this season. Last year we had many games where Parris (Manning) led us in scoring while Ross and Brower where consistently behind him at second and third.
“This season I feel like we will have much more variety in who scores for us and how we score. Some games it might be Maness, other games I can see Luke Davis or Tyler (Packer) scoring. I think we have the ability to have breakout scoring games from any of the guys in our primary rotation.”
Along with the loss of scoring, Union Pines will also be looking for new players to hit the glass and pick up rebounds. The Vikings lost their top-four rebounders from last year’s team in Ross, senior captain Charles Steadwell, who averaged 4.9, along with Manning (3.9) and Kendrick McRae (3.3).
Boney commented that defensive rebounding has been a priority since the summer and that aspect of the game, along with defense overall, has been a true focal point since the last day of tryouts ended on Nov. 2.
“Just like with scoring, we knew as a coaching staff we lost a lot in rebounding, so we have been really stressing its importance to the guys,” said Boney. “Luke Davis, Darrin Carlyle, Shakeem McRae and Dionte Williams will be the guys we are looking for to hit the glass hard for us along with Jeff Thompson.
“Thompson played on our jayvee team as a sophomore but didn’t play last season, so he is returning as a senior, and I think that will help us be versatile in rebounding.”
Thompson stands at 6-foot-3, while Carlyle is a 6-4, 190-pound junior. McRae is a big body at 6-2, 213 pounds, while Williams is an athletic, lean and long-framed player at 6-4, 175 pounds.
Meanwhile Davis, who measures 6-5 with a 250-pound frame, showed the ability to score in a variety of ways last season, including on the offensive glass, in the post with his back to the basket, from the free throw line and as a catch-and-release jump shooter from mid-range.
At this point in the season, Boney has not yet formulated a core rotation or even a full starting lineup, as he will be using the four scrimmage games his team has to evaluate his players in terms of where they might fit in the ultimate equation.
Nevertheless he likes his group’s chances to be competitive.
“I really feel like we have the pieces to not only be a good basketball team,” Boney said, “but to also have a chance to be at the top of our conference, despite all the guys we lost. I really feel like we have the guys that will put in the work and as a group really work together much more as a team in all aspects.
“That to me will be the main difference in our team this year. As a coach it is easy to scout a team that has one player that tends to score 30 or 25 points a game, versus a group like we are going to be that has several different guys all with the ability to contribute in major ways and four or five guys that can score at any given moment.
“In my mind I think that aspect of our make up as a group is really going to work to our advantage.”
Rounding out the Viking varsity squad as newcomers are senior Trey Crumel, and sophomores Joseph Poole and Armani McCoy.
Schedule: Nov. 19 Terry Sanford; 20 at East Montgomery; 27 at North Moore; 30 East Montgomery; Dec. 4 at Terry Sanford; 7 at Jordan-Matthews; 11 at Douglas Byrd*; 14 at Overhills; 15 Richmond SR.; 18 Gray’s Creek; 19 at Chapel Hill; 27-29 Holiday Tournament (at Lee County HS in Sanford); Jan. 4 Southern Lee; 8 at Cardinal Gibbons; 11 at Western Harnett; 18 OPEN; 22 Westover; 25 Douglas Byrd; 29 Overhills; Feb. 1 at Gray’s Creek; 2 at Richmond SR.; 5 at Southern Lee; 8 Western Harnett; 12 OPEN; 14 at Westover.
- 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference games
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