The Somerset Christian School boys basketball team is coming off back-to-back Kentucky Christian Athletic Association state championships. However, the Cougars graduated four of their all-time best players last spring and the 2021 Somerset Christian basketball program is now tasked to step up and play in their larger and new league - the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.
It will be a monumental and exciting journey for the relatively inexperienced Somerset Christian School basketball program. Cougar veteran coach Kirk Stickley is in the process of preparing his players for their new challenge.
"I have been trying to get the kids to understand that the speed of the game at the KHSAA level is going to be much faster," Stickley stated. "We played fast last year and pushed the ball up the floor. We expect to continue to do that this year as well."
"Defensively we are going to face players that are much faster, more coordinated and much stronger," Stickley added. "We played fast last year, but KCAA fast and KHSAA fast is two different levels of speed. Last year, a lot of teams in the KCAA said we played a lot like a KHSAA team. My coaching background has been in the KHSAA at the middle school level, and we have always had to prepare the kids to compete at the varsity level. I am coaching all four levels at Somerset Christian, and I am working to get these kids ready for the future and the next level."
One of the main reasons Somerset Christian stepped up to the KHSAA was to avoid long road trips. Although the KHSAA will be much tougher than their old KCAA league, the Cougars are excited to play in new venues closer to home.
"The exciting thing about this season, we will not have to get on the bus and make the long trips we had to make when we were in the KCAA, which sometimes turned into a five-hour round trip," Stickley explained. "It got to be that our shortest road trip was up to Lexington, so now we get to play a bulk of our games that are closer to home."
"It will also be exciting to walk into new and often bigger venues," Stickley exclaimed. "Eventually, we will get to play in front of some loud boisterous crowds, and I feel that will push us to play better than they thought they could ever play."
Two-time KCAA Player of the Year Jon Moore, Mason Cunnagin, Eli Hutchinson and Tristan Moore accounted for the bulk of the scoring over the last two seasons for the Cougars.
Filling the void left behind of the Cougars' 'Fab Four' will be players like senior Aaron Crubaugh and junior David Crubaugh. Last season, Aaron Crubaugh averaged 6 points and 5 rebounds a game, and will be expected to triple those number this season. David Crubaugh, who back up Jon Moore over the past two seasons, will be the man in the middle for the Cougars this year.
Juniors Luke Atwood and Braydon Moore will also appear in the starting line-up. Atwood had a great junior varsity season last year and will look to run the point for the varsity Cougars this year. Moore has not yet showed his true potential at the varsity level, and looks to be a threat from beyond the three-point arc.
Sophomore Noah Brummett got mostly junior varsity playing time last season, but will see time on the varsity team as either a guard or forward. Senior Joshua Stein will be the coach on the floor and provide the young Cougars with team leadership.
Sophomore Ethan Meggs will see some varsity playing time coming off the bench. Meggs has a high basketball IQ and should improve greatly as the season rolls on.
Senior Nic Godby will see playing time coming off the bench and will be looked upon to provide leadership for the Cougars' young squad.
Junior John Funtecha is described by his coach as a 'street baller', and will see minutes coming off the bench. Sophomore Ethan Warren will play as a back-up point guard.
Eighth-grader Elijah Ray will be the future big man for the Cougars. Ray is very athletic and is a good rebounder and shot blocker.
Stickley knows that the Cougars will not be able to beat some of the larger programs in the area, but it his goal is to be competitive with some of the smaller KHSAA programs.
"This year we want to be able to compete against Class A schools," Stickley stated. "If we can compete then we will always have a chance to win. We won't be in the same level as a Southwestern or Wayne County teams this year, but I think we can give them a good game."
Stickley spoke frankly about what would have to happen if Somerset Christian hoped to be successful in the KHSAA. As of now, Stickley explained that Somerset Christian is behind in their enrollment of boys in the school.
"For us to be competitive with the local teams in this area we are going to need an influx of players," Stickley stated. "One of the trends with private schools like us, is they are finding less and less boys coming to their schools, and they are becoming more female dominant. We have a sixth-grade class here where we only have 17 kids and three of them are boys. So we have got to figure out how to get the boys into this school."
"Right now, I have one sixth grader and two seventh graders to build off of," Stickley explained. "We hope the good Lord will provide for us and more boys come to this school in an effort to get more playing time. We don't recruit and we take every player that walks through our doors. We don't have tryouts, but that would be a nice problem to have in the future."
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.