The UIL boys basketball playoffs tip off Monday and coaches around the state are putting the final touches on game plans for their opening-round opponent.
Scouting, film, and X's and O's are wonderful tools, but talent usually trumps all.
PG Keyunta Watkins, Trophy Club Nelson: Great floor leader who knows how to distribute the ball and can fill it up when his team needs buckets in a hurry. The guy you want with the ball when your season is on the line.
G Jeremy Senglin, Arlington Bowie: Dynamic scorer, with great range and an ability to put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. The Weber State signee becomes unstoppable once he gets on a roll and can take over ballgames
W Brandon Parrish, Arlington Seguin: Smooth wing player at 6-foot-5, who is just as happy hitting a 3-pointer in someone's face as he is as driving and dunking on them. The TCU signee is also an excellent on-the-ball defender and a good rebounder.
F Ty Charles, Kennedale: Hurts opponents in so many ways. The 6-foot-4 Charles is the epitome of a stat stuffer, leading the Wildcats in scoring (16.1), rebounds (9.6), assists (5.3) and steals (3.2).
C Damontre McFarland, FW Arlington Heights: One of the only true big men in the area. Hard to choose what's more intimidating about the 6-foot-9 McFarland; the way he habitually swats shots on defense or his ability to outrun everybody downcourt and throw down monster dunks.
A handful of area players, such as Richland's Leyton Hammonds, are capable of single-handedly taking over a game. The 6-foot-8 forward is a walking double-double with per-game averages of 20.6 points and 10.5 rebounds.
"I think he's the best player in the area based on his performance this year," said Richland coach Richard Bacon, who owns a 516-216 record and two state titles in more than three decades as a coach in Texas. "I know I'm biased because I'm his coach, but I've coached a lot of players and I've had no player put up these kind of numbers."
Bacon added that the Rebels (22-8), who face Arlington Bowie (23-8) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Grand Prairie High School, will need Hammonds to continue to put up big numbers if they want to advance.
Last season the Rebels cruised through the regular season, where they won the District 6-5A title and upset defending state champion Flower Mound Marcus in the Whataburger Tournament, only to fall in the first round of the playoffs to Mansfield Timberview.
"That loss still haunts me to this day and it fuels all of us," Hammonds said. "We were the No. 1 team in the area and lost in the first round. All of our guys still remember that game. It motivates us, it drives us, and we want to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Hammonds, who signed with Oklahoma State, knows that any subpar performance on his part could be his last at Richland. As a senior leader he welcomes the pressure.
"I put this team on my back and I take full responsibility for this team," Hammonds said. "If we lose, put that 100 percent on me. If we win, I put that on the team. That's how I see the game and after three years in the program I see myself as a coach on the floor and a leader of the team."
Bacon has seen many talented players come and go throughout his career, and though excited for Hammonds' future, laments the inevitable loss to graduation. Through the huge wins and painful losses, the coach and star player said they developed a trust that is not easily replicated.
"As we are drawing close to the end of his high school career, I'm really beginning to feel the effects of how much I'm going to miss him," Bacon said. "We're closer now towards the end, then we've ever been since he's played for me. Now the realization is setting in and he is going to be a big, big loss to this program and a great addition to Oklahoma State.
"We have a few games left. It's been a nice journey and he's going to be truly missed."
Jarret Johnson, 817-390-7760
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