Tyler Lee boys basketball begins Tuesday on the road at Forney. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Forney High School.
Alan Simmons returns for his second year as head coach of the Red Raiders - and his 2017-18 team is entirely different from Year 1. Lee will unveil a team Tuesday that Simmons said is completely void of varsity experience.
“To be honest I don’t know that we had a choice,” Simmons said of the inexperienced roster. “We gradated 12 kids. Our Freshmen team last year went 20-2 and went undefeated in district. We kept them separated for a reason to create a winning atmosphere, a winning culture. Now we are going to throw those kids to the fire, so to speak.”
In Simmons’ first season, the Red Raiders struggled to a 7-20 record and went 1-13 in District 11-6A play.
He expects to be much improved in Year 2, but how much improvement relies on how fast his players assimilate to the faster pace and thought processes of the varsity game.
“Based on how we scrimmaged, physically we’re not bad,” Simmons said. “Playing kids without varsity experience, they are going to have to transfer practice (concepts), walk-throughs; specific sets for a specific team for each game.”
Simmons said the starting five is not set and will be a fluid deal based on how games and practices go each week.
Junior Devin Johnson (5-10, G) played on junior varsity last year, who Simmons said “shoots the ball really well; he can get his shot off, off the dribble, and when we penetrate and dish he’s a good shooter.
Sophomore Bryce Campbell (6-0, G) was one of the key cogs to last year’s Freshmen district champions. Said Simmons of Campbell: “He’s a point guard, who sees the floor very well and passes very well.”
Freshman Landry Simmons (5-8, G), Alan’s son, is making the jump from eighth grade to varsity. Said Coach Simmons of Landry: He’s one of our best shooters. He’s (at this level) because he can shoot the basketball and he’s smart (with the basketball).
Junior guards Kameron Ross (5-7, G) and Connor Carlyle (6-0, G) both played JV last year. Said Simmons: “Kameron is a point guard who can dish and who can shoot it and brings quickness and speed to the offense, and Connor is one of our better shooters (also).”
Simmons believes sophomore Jamal Jones (6-2, G) could be the Red Raiders go-to player after leading the Freshmen team last year. Said Simmons: “He’s kind of a slasher, but can also shoot it from the perimeter and does a great job on the boards and defensively.”
Sophomore Miles Minnick (6-2, G/P) and junior Xavier Hunter (6-3, P) will provide size and length. Said Simmons: “Miles is kind of inside-out player who can shoot the ball, but he’s strong on the boards and does a good job finishing. Xavier is our post. We scrimmaged last week and it was like a coming out party for him. I haven’t seen him play like that (yet) and if we get that kind of effort and play from him throughout the year, it’s just going to make us better.”
Simmons said senior Vince Wallace (6-0, G) is on the varsity “to play defense” and junior Mohammed Saadullah (6-2, G) “runs the floor very well and is just a smart player.”
Joining Landry Simmons as making the jump from middle school to varsity is freshman guard/post Matt Wade, who is listed at 6-3.
“He played eighth grade basketball last year and he’s just long and talented and he can shoot it,” Simmons said
Senior Lanthony Simmons (6-3, P) returns to the hardwood after his best-ever football season. He forced a fumble in Friday’s win over John Tyler and now brings leadership and grit to the basketball team.
“He’s one of our bigger kids and he will give us a post presence and a physical presence inside,” Simmons said.
In preparation for Tuesday’s opener, the Red Raiders scrimmaged Hallsville, Bullard and McKinney North. Simmons said Lee played eight quarters against Hallsville and Bullard and “only lost one, going 7-1 against those guys.”
Against McKinney North and North Forney on Saturday, Simmons said the Red Raiders “ beat McKinney North twice and beat North Forney twice, and we lost to Frisco Heritage.”
The games count starting Tuesday as the Red Raiders try to erase last season and began the road of returning to the playoffs as Lee hopes to achieve its first playoff win since 2007.
“We’ve got some things going in the right direction, but when you play for real and you’ve got young kids (you don’t know what to expect), but I am really encouraged going into (Tuesday),” Simmons said. “I am excited because these kids have really bought in and they are young and they are multiple. We’ve got young kids that are playing hard.”
Notes: Lee will compete in the Coppell Tip-off Showcase later this week and the Royse City Tournament (Nov. 30-Dec. 2) … Lee’s home opener is Dec. 5 against Whitehouse and it’s District 11-6A opener is Dec. 20 at Mesquite Horn.