Prep Hoops Preview: Ledford boys poised for bounceback season
Losing four starters from a 7-18 team would almost assuredly bring pessimism from most coaches.
Ledford can be thankful Jonathan Leonard isn't most coaches. Instead of lamenting the loss of most of the team's offensive weaponry from last season — which included leading scorer Daniel Lawson — Leonard professed confidence in the team that took the floor Thursday in a 46-44 loss to Central Davidson.
"We're definitely a lot younger this year and that's a good thing," Leonard said. "It's a good group of sophomores. They've gotten together with the older guys, so our practices have been awesome so far in terms of teamwork. I've told them on multiple occasions how proud I am of them for how much they care about each other."
Ledford returns four players in seniors Anthony Hughes and Erik McSwain, junior Kevin Pressley and sophomore Skylar McGee. The rest of the rotation will be rounded out by some combination of five sophomores and three juniors who are up from JV.
One of those sophomores will be relied upon heavily as an outside shooter. Brandon Rothrock will start at shooting guard for the Panthers and called upon to score as the beneficiary of an offense predicated on its ability to move the ball effectively to find the open man.
"We have to have great ball movement. We've been preaching setting great screens, setting up those screens...being patient," Leonard said. "Most nights, we're going to be smaller than the other team. We're going to have to be able to communicate, move the ball on offense — and when we do have open shots — knock those shots down."
Hughes, McSwain and McGee will be the ones setting those screens and looking to Rothrock and junior Matt Walker — who will split time at the point with Pressley — on the perimeter to give them easy scoring opportunities. Hughes and McGee will start, while McSwain will spell them early and often.
With the versatility of Leonard's bigs, he could conceivably have the three of them playing simultaneously on the floor.
"With Skylar, he can play the 3, 4 or 5," said Leonard. "(Playing time) depends on how hard you work in practice. We'll probably take our lumps this season, but I'm just excited about this group of kids."
Leonard expects the pecking order in the Mid-Piedmont 3-A Conference to remain very much the same as last year, with North Forsyth, Northeast Guilford and Asheboro contending for supremacy. The third-year coach said he hopes to break in among the top three or four teams in the league this season to make the playoffs.
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.