WORTON — All-star JayShaun Freeman is returning for his final year of high school basketball, and he is surrounded by teammates who have the talent and basketball IQ to return Kent County to the top tier of the Shore.
That’s the thumbnail sketch of what to expect from the Trojans, who are looking to bounce back from the anomaly of an eight-win season in 2018-19.
“We have pretty much everything ... Not to get ahead of the wagon, but I can see us competing for a region championship,” head coach Sobaye Scott said Monday.
Kent opens Thursday at home against Mardela. Tip-off is set for about 5:30 p.m. as this is the nightcap of a girls-boys doubleheader that starts at 4 p.m.
Scott is back for a ninth year as head coach at alma mater KCHS, and returns the best player on the Mid-Shore. Silky-smooth guard JayShaun Freeman averaged 29.6 points, 9.4 rebounds, seven assists and five steals a game last year for the 8-12 Trojans, who made a hasty exit from the Class 1A East Region Tournament.
The expectation is that things will be different this year. A lot different.
Scott said he likens this team to his first team, which captured the program’s only Bayside Conference championship in 2012.
“I have the same kind of athleticism and length I had then,” he said. “And I can put in the combinations that I know are going to rattle a lot of people.”
Scott said many of the games the Trojans lost last year were one- and two-possession games, “where it came down to kids that weren’t mentally ready to execute the game plan. Those were games we easily could have won,” he said. “I look for us to bounce back and be who we were” in the recent past when the Trojans were vying for conference and region crowns.
Freeman, who enters the season with 1,303 career points, is the only remaining player from the Trojans’ 2016-17 team that punched its ticket to the Class 1A state semifinals.
While there is no denying that Freeman is the center of Kent’s universe, it would be unfair and untrue to say that he is all there is.
The Trojans also return seniors Corey Wilson (forward), Ryan Argo (guard) and Peyton Taylor (guard), and junior varsity call-ups Brayden Mitchell (guard), Gary Emory (guard), Tylante Wilson (guard) and Jayden Reid (guard).
Logan Cannon, a 6-foot senior, is back after opting not to play last year.
New players for Kent County are sophomore center Tylir Cunningham, who played junior varsity at Queen Anne’s last season; 6-foot-2 junior Kayleb Collins, who transferred from Crisfield after his mother took a teaching job here; senior guard/small forward Michael Clark, a transfer from North Caroline; and seniors Kenny Fowler and Tykee Bryant, who are playing high school basketball for the first time.
Fowler, a 6-foot-2 guard/small forward, is “a flat-out player,” Scott said.
Fowler has starred on Kent’s varsity soccer and baseball teams since he was a freshman. He also wrestled as a ninth-grader.
Scott also has high hopes for Bryant, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound post player.
“The Collins kid is going to be an asset. He’s a scorer,” Scott said. “Kenny is going to help. Tylir is already starting to mature and Tykee has inside ability and can get up and down the court.”
Kent has so much depth that Scott would commit to only one starter: Freeman.
“I might sub a whole five at one time. I’ve got the team to do that,” Scott said.
“We’re quick and coachable,” he added. “I’ve got a good bunch and they want to get to the next level. They want to be successful. They’re putting in the work and they’re listening.”
After today’s opener, Kent’s boys will travel to Queen Anne’s on Tuesday, Dec. 10 for junior varsity and varsity games at 4 and 5:30 p.m., respectively.
Scott said he is expecting stiff challenges from Queen Anne’s, Easton and Cambridge.