With nine seniors graduating and its longtime coach, Chris Guhy, embracing the finer things in retirement, the Mayfield Cardinals will undoubtedly look different less than 12 months removed from a 2019 First Region Championship.
Its new skipper, Payton Croft, hails from good ol' Marion, and was a Crittenden County Rocket under his father and coach - Jimmy Croft.
At his prior post, Trigg County, Payton went 85-80 in six years, nabbing district titles in his first three consecutive seasons.
But now, he's part of the First Region fight. And in a district, no less, that bears considerable gravitas with cross-town rival Graves County and its seasoned skip, Josh Frick, and first-year head coach Jimmie Holder (and his former assistant with the Wildcats) at Ballard Memorial.
"For us, this summer was about me learning our players and them learning new things offensively and defensively," Croft said. "This will be something that takes some time, even as the season begins, to figure out. However, I loved the way our team competed (this summer), and once our guys learn their roles and style of play, I believe we will be very effective."
Mayfield will forever and always be behind the 8-ball when it starts hoops season, as football players coming off of long playoff runs tend to need time to acclimate to basketball.
But lordy, Croft has two immediate building blocks in footballers Kade Neely and Alonzo Daniel.
The former just committed to the University of Louisville to play wide receiver, and exploded onto the scene last year as the critical X-factor for the Cardinals bringing home the crown. He averaged 8.6 ppg and 5.2 rpg as the team's No. 4 scoring option, then bagged the First Region Tournament MVP after a coming-out party in the CFSB Center.
The latter continues to garner considerable interest for college football as a defensive back, who came away with 4.6 ppg and 1.9 rpg off the bench for the Cardinals last season. He's considered an elite defender, and he's going to get even more opportunities for buckets this year.
Croft is expecting players like Tony Parrott, DeAngelo Brooks and Colby Kennemore to help round out a potential starting five, but assures there's "more depth on this roster than people realize."
"I believe we could be really deep this year," he adds. "With nine seniors being on last year's team, many of these guys played JV last year. So there are several guys looking to move up and take an active varsity role that can help us in different areas throughout a game."
Health scare be damned, Graves County head coach Josh Frick nearly had his Eagles flying at the end of 2018-19. A 79-78 triple-overtime loss to Mayfield in the Third District Championship will likely go down as one of the most unforgettable First Region games of the past decade.
And four days later, it was a gritty 48-41 loss to McCracken County in the quarterfinal round of the 2019 First Region Tournament that ended the tenure of a stupendous senior class which included Jordyn Naranjo, Ryan Mathis, Jacob Savage, Tae Shannon, Aaron Jones and Alex Jackson.
So, what's next for Frick and the family?
Build it up and go again.
Count on Caleb Oliver, Jameson Chalker, Seth Thomas, Race Richards and Kade Babb to manage a lot of the minutes workload early. But while it's three seniors (Thomas, Babb, Chalker) and two juniors (Oliver, Richards) full of athleticism and skill, it's not a lot of "experience," per se. Combined, it's 10.7 ppg from a year ago, but 6.5 ppg of it belonging to Thomas, who was a third or fourth option behind Mathis, Naranjo and Savage in 2018-19.
This does mean that Frick and the fellas will be relying on some new faces - young and old - this year in some critical moments, and that he'll test his bench as needed.
"We plan on playing eight, nine this season," Frick said. "We have some young guys that have improved and deserve a shot. John Ben Brown has had a lot of success on the football field, and we think that will carry over to the hardwood. Mason Grant is a kid that is strong and can play multiple positions. He has a high motor, as well. Both of these guys may start at various times throughout the season.
"Aydan Flint is also a kid that can shoot the ball from the perimeter and will help us stretch the floor at times. Conner Mills has the ability to stretch the floor and knock down open shots."
And, as expecting, Frick is hoping Thomas leads the team in scoring this season.
But don't be surprised if someone like Richards, who led the Eagles on the gridiron in catches (47), yards receiving (712) and interceptions (3), has the skill set to cause problems.
Holder next up at Ballard Memorial
First-year head coach Jimmie Holder has already been around a lot of basketball in his early career. Star player at Marshall County. One season under Mick Cronin at Murray State as a player. A coach and recruiter at Kaskaskia and Wabash College. A stay underneath Wyatt Foust at Murray High School. A season with Payton Croft at Trigg County.
Now, he's got his own program to grow and nurture at Ballard Memorial, ironically in the same district as Croft, and a bit of humor not lost on him.
But the rebuild is no laughing matter. The Bombers struggled to a 4-21 finish in 2018-19, and after the season, history-making Marla Cooper stepped down as the program's coach of the past four years.
Holder has one player - senior point guard Dequin Donlow - he's particularly high on from the get go, and it's easy to understand. He averaged 11.8 ppg on 41.5% shooting from the floor, and he's super quick.
The graduation of Erick Marinelli and Drew Cox will provide more shot opportunities, too, and if his 3-point and free-throw shooting improve alongside his athleticism, the sky's the limit.
"Super athletic and quick guard with great first step," Holder writes. "Real chance at being All-Purchase with his ability to knife up and down the floor with ease.
"He is my early front runner for leading our team in scoring. His athletic ability will make him a top three guard in athleticism in the region. I am really high on him."
The Bombers have already received some tough news before the first tip; there is a legitimate concern that likely starting forward Tanner Chandler could be out for the season with a threatening knee injury.
It means fellow seniors and a pair of Bradys - Cox and Parrott - will be heavily relied on, as will freshman 6-5 forward Ben Maki.
"Tall and slender," Holder notes. "Moves well for his 6-5 freshman frame. Has potential to be good for years to come. Hoping he's ready by February to make significant impact scoring inside."
Coach: Jimmie Holder
2018-19 Record: 4-21
Key Losses: Erick Marinelli, Drew Cox
Potential Starters: Dequin Donlow, Brady Cox, Tanner Chandler, Brady Parrott, Ben Maki
Outlook: "I'm pushing us to win a district championship. It will be hard, as it's been a very long time since this has happened, but I like the pieces we have. Making the regional tourney would be a smaller goal for me, but would be a huge accomplishment for this team. Winning the All 'A' tournament would be a big goal, and will be a tough feat as I don't know exactly where we will be in mid-January. There are some quality teams in Murray, Mayfield, St. Mary and Carlisle that will all have a good chance of winning it this year." - Jimmie Holder, Ballard Memorial
Ballard Memorial Boys Basketball
Dec 3 Crittenden County home 7:30 PM
Dec 5 Calloway County away 7:00 PM
Dec 6 Todd County Central home 7:30 PM
Dec 10 Christian Fellowship home 7:30 PM
Dec 12 St. Mary away 7:30 PM
Dec 13 Community Christian (Paducah) home 7:30 PM
Dec 16 McCracken County home 7:45 PM
Dec 17 Hickman County away 7:30 PM
Dec 19 Graves County home 7:30 PM
Dec 21 Dawson Springs away 3:00 PM
Dec 23 Lyon County home 7:30 PM
Jan 2 Murray home 7:30 PM
Jan 3 St. Mary home 7:30 PM
Jan 7 Mayfield home 7:30 PM
Jan 8 Pope County (Golconda), IL away 7:30 PM
Jan 21 Christian Fellowship away 7:30 PM
Jan 25 Lyon County away 7:30 PM
Jan 28 Hickman County home 7:30 PM
Jan 30 Fulton County home 7:30 PM
Feb 1 Carlisle County home 6:30 PM
Feb 7 Mayfield away 7:30 PM
Feb 11 Graves County away 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Carlisle County away 7:45 PM
Feb 15 Murray away 7:30 PM Independence Bank Valentine's Shootout
Feb 18 Trigg County home 7:30 PM
Feb 20 Fulton County away 7:30 PM
Feb 21 Calloway County home 7:30 PM
Ballard Memorial Boys 2019-20 Roster
3 Cohen Adams Sr.
- Jamfert Barber Fr.
34 Carson Bishop Jr.
44 Tanner Chandler Sr.
2 Brady Cox Sr.
1 Dequin Donlow G Sr.
- Chance Gray Sr.
30 Kyle Hollingsworth Jr.
- Nathan Hopper Fr.
42 Trevor Howard Sr.
- Dustin Howle So.
- Ben Maki Fr.
20 Brady Parrott Sr.
5 Parker Rathman Sr.
- Jamison Smith Fr.
Coach: Josh Frick
2018-19 Record: 22-10
Key Losses: Jordyn Naranjo, Ryan Mathis, Jacob Savage, Tae Shannon, Alex Jackson, Aaron Jones
Potential Starters: Caleb Oliver, Jameson Chalker, Seth Thomas, Race Richards, Kade Babb
Outlook: "Our biggest challenge has been inexperience. We have talented players, but they lack varsity experience. With inexperience comes a deficit in decision making, adapting to the speed and physicality of the game, and performing on a bigger stage. Obviously, the more games that we play, those challenges will disappear." - Josh Frick, Graves County
Graves County Boys Basketball
Dec 2 Livingston Central home 7:30 PM
Dec 5 Massac County (Metropolis), IL at Marshall County 4:00 PM Marshall County Hoopfest
Dec 7 TBA at Marion, Ill. Wildcat Shootout
Dec 10 Murray home 7:30 PM
Dec 14 Paducah Tilghman away 7:30 PM
Dec 17 Calloway County away 7:30 PM
Dec 19 Ballard Memorial away 7:30 PM
Dec 20 St. Mary at Trigg County 6:00 PM KME Christmas Classic
Dec 21 TBA at Trigg County KME Christmas Classic
Dec 27 TBA at Gulf Breeze, FL Innisfree Hotels Beach Basketball Tournament
Dec 28 TBA at Gulf Breeze, FL Innisfree Hotels Beach Basketball Tournament
Dec 30 TBA at Gulf Breeze, FL Innisfree Hotels Beach Basketball Tournament
Jan 3 West Creek (Clarksville), TN home 12:00 PM CFSB New Years Bash
Jan 3 TBA home CFSB New Years Bash
Jan 4 TBA home CFSB New Years Bash
Jan 7 McCracken County home 7:30 PM
Jan 10 Mayfield home 7:30 PM
Jan 17 Marshall County away 7:30 PM
Jan 20 TBA at Massac County, IL Superman Classic
Jan 24 TBA at Massac County, IL Superman Classic
Jan 25 TBA at Massac County, IL Superman Classic
Jan 30 Calloway County home 7:30 PM
Feb 1 McCracken County away 7:30 PM
Feb 4 Paducah Tilghman home 7:30 PM
Feb 7 Marshall County home 7:30 PM
Feb 11 Ballard Memorial home 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Mayfield away 7:30 PM
Feb 18 Carlisle County away 7:30 PM
Feb 21 Fulton County home 7:30 PM
Graves County Boys 2019-20 Roster
50 Kade Babb C Sr.
33 John Brown F Jr.
10 Jameson Chalker G Sr.
00 Aydan Flint G So.
14 Mason Grant G So.
42 Drew Hayden F So.
34 Noah Jones F So.
22 Conner Mills G Sr.
4 Caleb Oliver G Jr.
23 Race Richards G Jr.
21 Austin Shea G So.
32 Seth Thomas G Sr.
Coach: Payton Croft
2018-19 Record: 25-8
Key Losses: Carson Guthrie, Connor Guthrie, Husten Lancaster, Kent Trey Matthews, Desean Jones, Chris Guhy
Potential Starters: Kade Neely, Alonzo Daniel, Tony Parrott, DeAngelo Brooks, Colby Kennemore
Outlook: "A smaller goal for us will be developing great team chemistry. Playing well together will help lead us in to what could be our bigger team goals as the season progresses." - Payton Croft, Mayfield
Mayfield Boys Basketball
Dec 10 Paducah Tilghman away 7:30 PM
Dec 16 St. Mary home 7:30 PM
Dec 17 McCracken County home 7:45 PM
Dec 20 Carlisle County home 7:45 PM
Dec 21 Fort Campbell away 7:30 PM
Dec 27 TBA at Calloway County Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 27 Fulton County at Calloway County 10:00 AM Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 27 TBA at Calloway County Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 28 TBA at Calloway County Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Dec 28 Calloway County away 4:00 PM Murray Bank Tipoff Classic
Jan 3 Hickman County away 7:30 PM
Jan 4 Community Christian (Paducah) away 6:30 PM
Jan 7 Ballard Memorial away 7:30 PM
Jan 9 South Fulton, TN away 7:30 PM
Jan 10 Graves County away 7:30 PM
Jan 13 TBA home 1st Region All "A" Classic
Jan 24 St. Mary away 7:30 PM
Jan 28 Paducah Tilghman home 7:30 PM
Jan 30 Murray away 7:30 PM
Feb 1 Crittenden County away 4:00 PM
Feb 4 Calloway County home 7:30 PM
Feb 7 Ballard Memorial home 7:30 PM
Feb 11 Fulton County home 7:30 PM
Feb 14 Graves County home 7:30 PM
Feb 17 Fulton County away 7:30 PM
Feb 18 Marshall County home 7:30 PM
Feb 21 Hickman County home 7:30 PM
Mayfield Boys 2019-20 Roster
13 DeAngelo Brooks F Jr.
3 Tony Parrott F Sr.
- Deshawn Caldwell Jr.
21 Diaz Perry F Sr.
4 Alonzo Daniel F Sr.
25 Jax Rogers F So.
1 Colby Kennemore G Jr.
- Charlie Sims So.
15 Bryce Lawson F Sr.
35 Sam Stone F So.
2 Kobe Morris G Sr.
- Trey Murrell Jr.
23 Kade Neely F Sr.
5 Ethan Tynes G Sr.
22 Nathan Watkins G So.