On a yearly basis, the Cayuga basketball is in the discussion when it comes to possible state champions. And four years ago, the Wildcats claimed the Class 1A state championship at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.
Different season. Same story.
Entering the 2012 campaign, Cayuga is ranked No. 2 in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches — and might have its best shooting and ball-handling team yet. That makes the Wildcats a favorite to capture the 1A Division I Region III championship, a tournament that caused their demise in heartbreaking fashion the past two seasons.
Senior guard Preston Anderson, the hero in the state final as a freshman, returns for his final season before entering the college ranks. The 6-7 guard has verbally pledged with Hartford University (Conn.), but has business ahead of him before taking his talents to the Northeast.
The Wildcats also welcome back 6-7 post Deon Shofner, 6-3 guard Hunter Jenkins, 6-0 guard Deonte Jackson and 5-8 guard Pat Boxie for their seniors this seasons, plus are blessed with new talent across the board. That includes 6-0 point guards Chandler Rigdon and Wesley Rigdon, who moved in from Turkey Valley when their dad joined the CHS coaching staff.
And when it comes to depth, Cayuga might have the most in 1A Division I — the Wildcats plan to rotate 12 players in and out of games.
“We just think we’ve got a lot of depth and experience with the kids returning who have been there and one that,” coach Greg Jenkins said. “We have high expectations. We’ve place them on ourselves. This team is going to be able to score the basketball we think. I might be the best offensive team we’ve put on the floor.”
Each season presents new challenges, though. What might be the Wildcats’ biggest challenge is replacing the rebounding talents of the now graduated Zack Bowman, a 6-6 forward who wasn’t a stranger to pulling down 20 boards a night.
Cayuga has been eliminated in the regional semifinals in back-to-back seasons, each time in heartbreaking fashion to Tenaha. But the Wildcats have moved on, Jenkins said.
“We put that in our rearview mirror a long time ago,” Jenkins said. “This group worked hard in the offseason. I don’t see any hangover at all. We knew Tenaha was good last year and we obviously let one get away.”
Defending regional and state champion Clarksville moved up to 2A and Tenaha graduated most of their roster, which means Cayuga might have an easier path back to Austin. But the region is still loaded with the likes of No. 4 Kerens, No. 5 Grapeland and No. 8 LaPoynor, among others.
“The region is good,” Jenkins said. “Kerens is in our district and in our region this year; they may be the second-best team in the region if you are saying we are the best. One of our old opponents, LaPoynor, is really good. It’s a shame all of us are in the same region. When you get down to the state tournament and watch those games, Clarksville absolutely blew out everyone down there (last season).”