SPARTA
BY JACK BULLOCK
The Sparta Bulldogs had a tough season in 2016-17.

Going just 3-28 overall and 0-10 in the SIRR Mississippi Division, Coach Jonathan Norton knows that it is going to take a lot of work to get things going again.

Four players are missing from last season, two from graduation and two via transfer.

But for this preview, we can look at the ones coming back as this coach tries to get things jump started.

Coach Norton, who is a former player at Sparta, will turn to some kids that started last year.

Seven of them saw minutes in varsity contests so that will be something that this coach can build on.

Carlos Keen, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, got in a lot of experience as a freshman a season ago.

Jonathan Williams, a senior returning player, was also productive.

Keen averaged almost six points a night while Williams added three a game.

Not great numbers but something to move forward with.

Three seniors saw enough minutes a year ago to earn a letter.

Five-foot-nine guard Ostyn Connors, 6-foot-3 forward Jacob Soderlund and 6-foot-4 forward Jonah Boston are back along with juniors 5-foot-10 guard Jared Stefani and 6-foot-3 forward Rodney Anderson.

Coach Norton spoke highly of incoming sophomores to the crew that he believes can help off of the bench.

Kerry Harris, a 6-foot-4 forward, along with 5-foot-8 guard Deon Clark and 5-foot-10 fuard Tony Williams will get a chance.

“Although some of the kids we expected to be contributors this year are now gone, it opens up a lot of opportunity and playing time for some other kids in our program. We had 18-20 kids show up consistently all summer and made a lot of positive strides. That is going to really add to our depth and team chemistry this year,” said Coach Norton. “We have a lot of players in our program with similar skill levels that will battle for playing time. I am confident that our younger players will push the upperclassmen to give us a lot of different options as the year goes on. Our post play is going to be huge for us this year. The consistency they can provide could be the determining factor in how our season plays out.”

OUTLOOK – As the old saying goes, “there is no where to go but up” and Sparta knows that it is going to take a lot of work. But it sounds like this is not as back of a situation as it could be. Coach Norton talked about having good numbers for open gyms and that is a good sign for the future of this program. ABV thinks there will be more wins this season for this program.

2017-18 VARSITY SCHEDULE
N27-D2 Trico "Pioneer Invitational" Tournament J26 Pinckneyville

D8

@ Pinckneyville J27 Marissa-Coulterville
D15 Nashville F2 @ Nashville
D16 Murphysboro F3 @ Steeleville
D19 Du Quoin F9 @ Du Quoin
D26-29 Freeburg/Columbia Holiday Tournament F10 Carterville
J5 @ Carterville F13 @ Okawville
J6 @ West Frankfort F16 @ Anna-Jonesboro
J12 Anna-Jonesboro F17 Chester
J16-20 Sparta "Mid-Winter Classic" F19-23 IHSA Regional TBD