While the Red Devil men’s basketball team loses a lot of its scoring punch from a year ago with the departures of star guards Jermaine Long and Darnell Jones-Bowie, coach Andy Shaw is confident that this years group can make up for those points by being able to share the ball and transition into an offense that is less isolation-based.
“I think we are going to be a more balanced team,” Shaw said. “Last year, we had games where we had to rely on Jermaine to get 30 and Darnell to get 20. We have guys this year that our capable of big numbers, but we have a new offense and it is more predicated on the pass rather than the dribble… Our primary offense now is more of a passing and cutting style and it tends to get more people involved.”
The player who will be counted to orchestrate the new Red Devil offensive attack is be third-year sophomore point guard E.J. Garnes.
“He is a very quick point guard and is able to run the show for us,” Shaw said. “He gets people in the right spots. One of his best traits is his ability to facilitate and get other people good shots.”
Garnes — No. 3 — wasn’t able to play last season because of a shoulder injury after transferring in from Cloud Community College, but Shaw says the 5-9 guard, who played his high school ball at Wichita Southeast, put his redshirt year to good use.
“He knows what I want to see,” Shaw said. “He is basically a coach on the floor at this point. He knows where everyone should be and he has been providing a lot of vocal leadership for us.”
Garnes will be flanked in the starting lineup tonight against Oklahoma Wesleyan’s junior varsity by a pair of sophomore knock-down shooters with shooting guard Shon Sanders — No. 11 — and small forward Quentin Blaue — No. 13. While Sanders is a transfer from Friends University and Blaue is a second-year player for Shaw, he says both have proven that they are dangerous when defenses mistakenly leaves them open.
“Sanders has been a pleasant surprise for us,” Shaw said. “He has just been playing really, really well. He is capable of getting hot from the perimeter, but he is also good off the bounce.”
In the post, Allen will have the luxury of starting a couple players with plenty of experience.
Third-year sophomore Ithello Cross — No. 15 — will be the Red Devils’ defensive anchor and he will also be counted on to provide low-post offense when called upon.
“Cross is a good defender and a great athlete,” Shaw said. “He is a good rebounder and can just go get it over the top of everyone else. He has really progressed as far as his offensive skill set too.”
Sophomore Kyle Hultgren — No. 30 — joins Cross on the front line and the Gardner-native gives Allen a scrappy presence on both ends of the floor.
“He plays hard, he rebounds and he defends,” Shaw said. “And that is why we have him starting.”
Hultgren emerged as a weapon for Red Devils late last season and was a key factor in Allen’s victory over Neosho County Community College last February.
“Hultgren saw spot minutes last year, but late in the year he came in and helped us win games at Independence and here against Neosho,” Shaw said. “He was very solid and he has carried that over throughout the summer and gotten in better shape.”
Allen will open the regular season tonight at home against Oklahoma Wesleyan’s junior varsity after the women’s 6 p.m., game against Missouri Baptist.
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