Special to The Sun
Losing nine seniors is certain to change the makeup of most high school teams. The Deer Creek boys are no exception.
The Antlers graduated a lot of size, experience and offense. And for the first time in four years, they will take the floor without Garrett Hermanski, who’s now playing college ball at UCO.
While the team has changed, head coach Matt Bailey is adamant that the enthusiasm and expectations remain the same.
“I’m looking forward to a great year,” he said. “We have a lot of young guys that are inexperienced, but we have a lot of speed and a lot of guys that can play different positions.”
With a young crop, the Antlers will lean on their two senior leaders for guidance. Joel Blumenthal and Kevin Caudill have about six years combined starting experience.
Blumenthal is the team’s top returning scorer. Last year he averaged 8.4 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game. He also shot 36.2 percent from behind the three-point line.
Caudill is also a solid offensive player. As a junior, he averaged 6.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assist per game.
Bailey expects to get a lot of production from a talented sophomore group. Forward Connor Avants (6-foot-5) should provide some low post scoring, while Josh Stokesberry and Taylor Anderson will help in the backcourt.
The Antlers will also get some help from a few other football players. Senior guard Jared Rayburn is a tough defender. Brennan Miyake returns to the team after two years off, while Caden Sander will be playing his first year of high school basketball.
Because of that inexperience, Bailey said his team will need to focus on the little things.
“We only have two guys that played varsity and that can hurt us at times, so we’re going to need to do the little things right,” he said. “We’re going to have to do things like win the 50/50 balls, create turnovers and play consistently.”
The Antlers will not have to wait long for a test. The Suburban Conference will provide challenges on a nightly basis, while tournaments at Durant and Bishop McGuinness and hosting the Bruce Gray Invitational will have them ready for the postseason.
“The Suburban Conference is always very good competition,” Bailey said. “Carl Albert is third in Class 5A, Guthrie is in the top 10 and we’re right at No. 14 with Piedmont. And the other teams like Chickasha, Western Heights and Shawnee are also tough.”
Deer Creek finished 20-8 and lost in the Area Tournament last year.
The Antlers open the season at home Nov. 30 against rival Piedmont.