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Solid senior nucleus for Farragut boys in ’06-07

Running, good shooting and defense look to be team strengths for the 2006-07 Farragut Admirals boys varsity basketball team. Two starters, senior post Zach Onusic (6-foot-5) and senior guard Will Akers (6-foot-3), return to an FHS program that ended 21-12 with a District 4-AAA runner-up finish last season.

“We’re a little young, we lost quite a few seniors last year,” FHS head coach Donald Dodgen said. “But we come back with five seniors and five juniors with a little playing time. ... We’re still learning. This is one of the toughest districts [4-AAA] and regions [2-AAA] around.

As a team, “They’re working hard. If we can stay together by February, I hope by then we’ll be together ready to compete against these better programs,” he said.

Strengths? “We’ve got more than three or four shooters out there,” Dodgen said. “We’ve got six or seven kids capable of shooting the ball pretty well. I really think we’re going to be alright.”

Biggest concern? “Experience is the number one concern right now, next is ballhandling,” Dodgen said. “And third, to be honest with you, is consistency.”

For scoring punch, Dodgen pointed to Akers and Onusic, along with 6-foot-5 senior Phil Kinney, a key reserve post off the bench last season. “Probably the ones who we’re going to look for for the majority of the scoring early,” Dodgen said.

“Will gives us a complete game scoring, both inside and outside, and he’s a pretty good defender,” Dodgen added. “Zach’s a good rebounder, Zach’s a good jump shooter from 15-feet and out. Takes the ball to the hole very well.

“Phil brings a little different dimension where he can play inside and step outside and shoot.”

Defensively, “Mason [Burks, 6-foot-3 senior] is probably the best defensive player we’ve got,” Dodgen said. “The next best defensive player we’ve got is probably Will Akers.”

Both junior point guards, Riley Hunley (6-foot-3) and Esean Phillips (6-foot-1), played often off the bench last season. Kyle Binder (6-foot-5 junior) and Clay Wilhoite (6-foot-4 senior) will provide post depth.

As for a starting lineup to go with Akers, Onusic and Kinney, “We’ve been playing four or five different combinations” in pre-season scrimmages, Dodgen said.

As for keys to success, “The whole big key is what these juniors are going to do,” Dodgen said of Hunley, Phillips, Binder, Justin Griswold and John Abraham (6-foot-2 guards) and Ben Saunders and Chris Carroll (6-foot-3 forwards). “And what are my sophomores going to bring to the table,” Dodgen added a about Jonathan Moore (6-foot guard) and Sam Watson (6-foot-5 forward).

So far during scrimmages, “I’m pleased with all of them for their defensive effort,” Dodgen said. “We held one team [Cookeville] to forty points, we held one team [McMinn County] to thirty-five and we held one team [Austin-East] to thirty-six. Of course your defense is going to be ahead of your offense.”

As for offense, “We’re going to try to play an up-tempo type ballgame ... this team can run, and we’re going to have to run to compete against the better teams in this district,” Dodgen said. “And play a lot of kids.”

Akers said, “We’ve just got to make sure we work as a team, no individual effort, because if we work as a team we should be pretty good this year and go pretty far.”

Onusic said one of the team’s top goals is “to sweep Bearden this year. If we work together we should have a pretty decent season.”

Burks said one his key roles is to “get the rebounds, try to bang a little bit, and get the ball out to the guards so we can push. We’ve been running a lot in preseason. We’re going to use that a lot this season. Hopefully we can run teams out of the gym.”

Kinney said his main job is “try to make the big guys play defense and get rebounds, second-chance points, and draw the big guys outside.”

Wilhoite said he hopes to contribute with hustle, “and get inside and bang with the big men.”


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