JOPPA
BY JACK BULLOCK
ABV has always been optimistic about young, enthusiastic coaches and the Joppa Rangers have a good one in charge in Coach Zack Essex.
This young man took a dormant program and sparked some interest in Rangers' basketball for the first time in quite a while.
The Rangers (10-17) picked up some additional wins last season, some much needs victories and his junior varsity team finished with a 10-5 mark.
That is a good sign for any program.
Coach Essex has some kids back who are learning how to play the game and win.
Of Joppa's 17 defeats, six of those saw the Rangers give up second half leads.
This coaching staff is working on the importance of putting teams away.
Joppa returns the bulk of the minutes from a season ago and they will work towards getting off to a better start to the season.
The 2015-16 Rangers started just 1-6, but responded with a pretty good rest of the season.
“We had a team of individual agendas last year and we believe that we have a team this year with a “We First” attitude,” said Coach Essex. “The boys are entering their second year in our system and we expect huge strides from a year ago. I have never coached a group of kids as passionate about getting better than I have found in this young group of men. We coach hard and the boys understand that we are pushing them to reach a potential they never knew they could reach and hopefully a season filled with met goals and accomplishments.”
Returning for the Rangers is a potential 1,000-point scorer in 6-foot-5 Kaleb Cox who was the second leading scorer and best rebounder (9.7 rebounds) and a solid post defender from last season.
Leading scorer from a year ago, 6-foot-2 senior Hunter Johnson (14.5 p.p.g., 8.1 r.p.g.) is also back.
Joppa will have mostly underclassmen on the roster, including a sophomore transfer from Massac County 5-foot-11 Gavin Meyers.
Another sophomore, 5-foot-11 Triston Lowery also returns from last season.
The total of six sophomores looking for playing time include 5-foot-11 Jase Hutchason, who was a starter last season as a freshman at the end of the season. Braxton Lewis, a 5-foot-11 guard, shared a few starts last year and will play a new role this year with mixed time as a forward and guard, according to Coach Essex.
Six-foot-two Griffin Greer is also from the sophomore class along with 5-foot-7 Noah Holland.
Five-foot-eleven junior Thomas Kendall (eight p.p.g.), is a pure scorer according to Coach Essex Sophomore Mason Stewart grew three inches and now stands at 6-foot-4 and has had his coordination catch up to him. He was our most improved from a year ago.
Zach Brown, a 6-foot-2 junior and 6-foot-1 senior Joey Smith are also in the picture.
“Our team is still young and with only three seniors, we look for our sophomores and juniors to lead our team night in night out with their intensity on defense and their self control and patience on offense,” added Coach Essex. “We have 11-potential starters on this team and they are highly aware that nothing will be given and only earned. Our motto is "NOT YOU, NOT ME, BUT WE" and we intend to stick to our philosophy, continue to teach these young men and use last years experiences to train even harder. We understand nothing is given and we intend to be right there in the running for the title at Crab Orchard, Dongola and the new Egyptian Tourney. We will win our games with our defense and defeat better opponents with our patience.”
2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N20-25 Crab Orchard Turkey Tournament J12 Dongola

D1

@ Wolf Lake Shawnee J16-20 Egyptian "Mid-Winter Classic"
D5 Cobden J23 Tamms Egyptian
D8 @ Fulton City (MO.) J26 Mounds Meridian
D12 @ Tamms Egyptian F2 @ Marion Agape Christian
D15 @ Ullin Century F3 @ Thompsonville
D19 @ Galatia F6 Golconda Pope County
D28-29 Dongola Christmas Tournament F16 Elkville Elverado
J6 Tamms Egyptian Shootout F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD
J11 Paducah (KY.) CCA F-27-M2 IHSA Sectional TBD