Peabody Magnet High’s Dvonte Tennie (2) plays against Ruston in a scrimmage held at Louisiana College in Pineville over the summer. Tennie is one a handful of players that the inexperienced Peabody Warhorses will be counting on this season. / Melinda Martinezemail@example.com
The defending Class 4A state champions lost seven seniors to graduation from last year's team, and longtime basketball coach Charles Smith hops his players will be ready for the challenges they face.
"Those guys last year had four years of experience -- four years of championship basketball," Smith said, who's team opens its season today in the Opelousas Tournament. "We are basically in rebuilding mode."
Peabody High, in Alexandria, finished last season with a 35-1 record, defeated St. Augustine in the title game and were led by senior stars Josh Ivory, Troy Jones and 2012 Mr. Basketball Dee Wagner.
Smith said it's hard to replace that wealth of talent and experience that formed the nucleus of last year's championship team.
"Dee is at Arkansas, Josh is at Cleveland State and Troy is at Conners State in Oklahoma," said Smith, who earned All-Cenla and All-State Coach of the Year honors last season. "I have two seniors this year, senior shooting guard Dvonte Tennie and senior forward Carlton Lowe. Dvonte played some last year but not a lot of minutes. Carlton has been in my program three years; played some but not a lot last year. I'm looking to Carlton for leadership and to help us in rebounding."
Smith is also looking for 6-foot-4 junior guards Devetrice Boyd and Gabriel Jordan to make big plays.
"Gabriel is an outstanding athlete and can shoot the ball from the perimeter," Smith said. "LSU is watching to see Gabriel's development and feel he will be a good prospect. Devetrice has great leaping ability, and LSU is watching him also. Both just don't have the game experience, and hopefully we can get that going."
Tennie said he likes that the inexperienced players are determined to win.
"By coming out everyday and playing hard, that's the way I motivate players," he said. "The seniors before us led by example. I love that Coach gives us hard competition because the hard competition shows us where we need to be physically and mentally."
Lowe said people are doubting the Warhorses' ability to win.
"The doubt is just motivation," he said. "I try to be a vocal leader and let the younger players know that this team has a winning history, and they have to give more than 100 percent on the court. I feel it's my job to lead in rebounds and points as a senior."
"We will be ready for competition this season."
Smith said every year is a challenge for him, no matter if he has new combers or all returning starters.
"It's always a challenge for the coaching staff to see if we can get the best out of these young men," he said. "Hopefully, we can get them to a point where they are championship-caliber players. Alexandria Senior High returned all their players from last year, and they have an outstanding team. Tioga returned three or four of their starters. (Tioga head basketball) coach (Lance) Brasher does an excellent job of getting his players ready."
"We pride ourselves on playing the toughest competition we can. It's going to be a dog fight for the district championship."