|New coaches bring new approaches
By Dan Manley
Advocate Sports Editor
Steve Wright has been here before.
The new head boys’ coach at Montgomery County High School isn’t getting into his first rodeo.
Wright has been a head coach for 30 seasons at the high school level.
He’s coached a team to a state championship, South Laurel, in 2005.
And he’s directed his teams to 697 wins, placing him 10th all-time among high school boys’ coaches in Kentucky.
Segue to the Montgomery County High School girls’ program.
Dustin High hasn’t been a head coach before.
When his girls’ suit up for their season opener Dec. 2 against Lewis County, High will be entering new territory.
But don’t feel like High isn’t ready for the task.
Sitting alongside Dustin on the Montgomery County bench will be his Dad, John High, who has coached girls’ basketball teams at Whitesburg, Breathitt County and Montgomery County to a collective 658 wins which makes him the fifth all-time winningest coach in Kentucky among girls’ coaches. Regional titles have followed him multiple times at every stop and one of his Whitesburg teams made it to the state championship game.
Dustin is ready for the buck to stop at his chair, but having a veteran like John High on the bench beside you has to be a big plus.
“Things have worked really well,” High said. “I think we have a great staff all the way through and that’s making my job so much easier.”
Both coaches, however, have major challenges ahead.
For Wright, the biggest challenge may be simply creating the right chemistry for his team.
“We’re still learning,” said Coach Wright. “Learning the system and learning each other. But it’s coming.”
Wright says the best thing about having student-athletes playing multiple sports is simply that “athletes need to be playing multiple sports when they can.”
The downside is simply that when you start practice with a group of players and then soccer ends and you have new players added and then football ends and you have new players added, it’s a little bit like starting over.
“It’s just a process and you have to realize that when these guys come in you have to take a quick step back, let them begin to insert themselves into the mix and then you’re rolling again,” he said.
“The upside of having players from these other sports, with the competitive spirit they bring, out-weighs any downside that you can have.”
Wright says that he’s been really pleased with the way the team has meshed together.
There are four newcomers to the program from a year ago and all figure to contribute.
Zach Benton, whose father is an assistant coach on the staff, is a 6’8”, 225 pound transfer from Ryle High School in the ninth region where he averaged 10.3 points and 5.7 rebounds as a junior.
“He can play inside and out,” Wright said and “has a lot of upside. His best basketball is in front of him.”
Ricky Lovette is originally from Florida. The 6’6” junior is “really athletic,” according to the coach, and is a player who shoots the ball well from the perimeter and can also take the ball to the basket.
Preston Adams, a 6’3” senior returns after spending time at a private school. He was a part of the program before.
Although he’s had some injury problems in the pre-season, Wright says he has some skills that will help him be in the mix for playing time.
Logan McCormick, a 6’3” sophomore and the reigning regional golf champion, is back after sitting out as a freshman.
“He’s going to get a lot of junior varsity minutes and he’s going to get some varsity playing time to,” Wright says. “He’s a player that’s not afraid to mix it up on the inside and we’ll need that along the way.”
Wright has a ton of talent, most of it on the perimeter, who are battling for playing time.
Guards Austin Eichenberger, Hagan Harrison, Trey Carroll, Brandon Igo along with wings Trevor Igo, Caleb Webb and J.T. Woosley and forwards Trey Ishmael and Nolan Kendall give Wright plenty of talent to make for competitive practices.
“These guys all have talent, they all want to play and contribute and they play well together,” Wright said. “There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about what this team can become.”
The biggest challenge for High and his staff is simply dealing with a squad that is still coming of age physically to match their basketball IQ.
Of the 15 players on the roster, High had two groups of five that played extensively the past Saturday at Scott County as the Lady Indians scrimmaged against Tates Creek.
Tates Creek defeated Montgomery County, 60-54, near the end of last season and the Indians won Saturday, 43-35. That’s not necessarily an indication of the Lady Indians being that much better, but the mere fact that they were on the top end of the score was a positive.
“We’ve got a number of players who are going to be able to contribute,” High said. “We’ve just got to get the right mix.”
Saturday, High had freshmen Shae Harris and Ella Routt, junior Savannah Parker and eighth graders Hayden Barrier and Allie Dillon in one group with Reaghan Oney, Adrienne Tuttle, Emily Zink, Maddie Zeek and Emily Williams in another group.
Tuttle is the lone senior on the squad while Oney and Emily Williams are eighth-graders and Zeek and Zink are freshmen.
Eighth-graders Alana Williams and Allison Stigall and seventh-graders Mackenna Bromagen, Brooklyn Ferrell and Sara Zink round out the roster.
Both teams will have their final preseason scrimmages Saturday.
High will take his girls to Estill County to play the Engineers at 1 p.m.
“Tates Creek was up and down the floor with pressure and I think Estill County will be more of a half-court game, so that’ll give us a chance to see how we do in a different type of game,” High said.
The Lady Indians open the regular season Monday, Dec. 2, at the MCHS Arena against Lewis County.
Wright will send his squad against Knox Central at the MCHS Arena this Saturday at 1 p.m. in an open scrimmage.