FULTON – Jeremy Word was a reserve guard when ICC played two years ago in the national tournament.
He knows what it takes to make a postseason trip to Hutchinson, Kan. He believes this season’s team has the qualities to return there.
“I think we’re more athletic than we were two years ago,” said the sophomore guard from Nettleton, who played football only last season. “We’ve got the guard play. If we execute, I think we can repeat.”
Indians head coach Marty Cooper isn’t talking Kansas just yet, but he does like his talent level.
“We’ve got a good group of freshmen,” he said. “Our talent and depth’s better than it’s been.
“We’ve got 14 people who can come in and make something happen.”
ICC’s attack starts with a three-guard lineup featuring Word, Houlka sophomore Wesley McIntosh and freshman Wendell Williams of Baxley, Ga. Vincenzo Nelson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, will start at power forward and join 6-5 sophomore Ray Hollivay, a post player. Nelson’s from Clinton and Hollivay from New Hope.
Former Shannon gunner Xavier Ruth, a sophomore, and freshman Todd Nelson of Brandon add depth at guard. Melvin Morgan, a freshman from Memphis, will play the point.
While he’s got plenty of depth, Cooper says experience is where his team is lacking.
“Vincenzo Nelson is the only player we’ve got who’s played more than 10 minutes,” said Cooper, whose teams have won three consecutive MACJC North Division titles.
Nancy Gray hopes strong post play and the development of a strong backcourt will lead her Lady Indians to at least a share of a North Division title for a third straight year.
“Our strength would be our post play,” said Gray, who has a 502-140 record at ICC, Tupelo High and Bruce High. “We’ve got a couple of good outside shooters and we’ve got two who can play point guard.
“We’re inexperienced. We’ll have to play through December and see what we can indentify.”
ICC’s inside game is led by 5-11 sophomore post Destini Shannon of Tupelo, who missed last season with a knee (ACL) injury, and 5-10 sophomore Lori Crudup of Pontotoc.
Tupelo rookies Mandy Collins and Treneisha Trice, along with 6-1 Tiffany Pierce of Houston add muscle under the goal.
The point guards/guards are 5-11 Birdie Bowens, a sophomore from Tuscumbia, and Natasha Berry, a sophomore from Tupelo. Berry’s considered the team’s best defender.
“My job’s getting the ball up the floor and getting it to our good shooters,” Berry said.
One of those shooters is former Itawamba AHS star Noel Prestage, a freshman who can consistently knock down the 3-pointer. She is joined by former IAHS teammate Anna Dill, who’s aggressive style has impressed the coaches.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal