Photo by Bill Roseberry
Pictured is the 2015-16 Alton boys' basketball squad. From left to right are: Jordan Golley, Tyler Springman, Morris Adams, Damion Reid, Paul Harris, Maurice Edwards, Marcus Latham, Evan Meyer, Dereaun Clay, Izeal Terrell, Tre Smith, Kenneth Burnett, Kevin Caldwell, Jr. and Ty'ohn Trimble.
The Alton Redbirds are coming off a sensational 2014-15 season.
Alton advanced to the Class 4A Pekin Sectional finals, losing 48-36 to Normal Community. The Birds posted an impressive 27-5 mark — tying a school record for wins — and were the last team standing out of the Southwestern Conference on the season.
AHS graduated nine seniors from last year's squad, including four starters. Carlos Anderson is now playing for SIUE, Darrius Edwards took his skills to Southwestern Illinois College and Isaiah Thurmond is hooping it up for Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg. The fourth departed starter, Bryan Hudson, was drafted in the third round of the MLB Amateur Draft and is pitching in the Chicago Cubs organization.
Also gone are contributing players like: Josh Lovings, who is playing football at McKendree University, Lavonte Hobbs, Demonte Wigfall and Nigel Harris.
Fourth-year head coach Eric Smith knows what he lost, but he also knows the talent he still harbors on the Alton roster.
“There are some questions we have about different things, but we kind of believe right now that we've got some quality kids that can play,” Smith said. “We don't question the ability of some of our kids, it's just are we going to be able to buy into roles and are we going to be able to play hard enough, long enough to help us be successful.
“We've got a handful of kids that can do a lot of different things on a basketball court, they're very versatile, but obviously size is going to be a big issue for us. We're a bunch of midgets, but our little babies are all grown up now.”
It all starts with 6-foot junior Maurice Edwards. He is the lone returning starter who averaged nearly 10 points per game. Smith knows he can score.
“He's going to have to take a little bit more of a responsibility of scoring for us and I don't think that's something he's not accustomed to,” Smith said. “Last year is the only team he's not been the scorer on any of the teams he's been on. He's got that in him and I don't think that's something he'll shy away from.”
Senior Marcus Latham (6-1) and sophomore Kevin Caldwell, Jr. (6-0) will offer scoring prowess, too. Latham is a long player with scoring skills and Caldwell comes from a lineage of AHS standout players. His father is Kevin Caldwell, Sr., who stood out for the Redbirds in the late 80s and was once the program's all-time scoring leader. He's now second on that list.
“Marcus has the opportunity to put the ball in the basket a bunch of different ways,” Smith said. “Hopefully with some of the things we're able to do with him he'll have an opportunity to step out against people if they try and play him as a big and if they play him as a little he'll have some things he can do. He's a versatile kid and offensively he's got the ability to do a lot of things as a high school player.
“Caldwell will be a kid we'll look to to give us a little leadership. He's got a little flare to him when he's out there. We're expecting some good stuff from him. He practiced with us everyday last year, so as a freshman he got beat up a little bit and I think that helped him out quite a bit. Once he figures out the flow of the varsity game we really expect him to blossom. He had a great summer and he's a really skilled kid for his age.”
Smith also expects solid play from seniors Jordan Golley (5-10), Kenneth Burnett (6-0), Paul Harris (6-1) and Tre Smith (6-1).
“We'll have some seniors that will be around to help us and then some juniors we'll expect to fill some roles,” Smith said.
Schedule-wise, Alton doesn't have much outside of the Southwestern Conference. The Redbirds open with the Alton Tip-Off Classic with Northwest Academy at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. They then play Chatham Glenwood at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 27 and Jacksonville at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28.
AHS dropped the Washington Tournament midway through the season and have added a shootout game vs. Galesburg in Galesburg (Jan. 30), a shootout at CBC, playing Soldan (Dec. 19) and a game vs. St. Mary's at Cardinal Ritter (Jan. 23).
NAME HT POS
Kenneth Burnett 6-0 G
Jordan Golley 5-10 G
Paul Harris 6-1 F
Marcus Latham 6-1 G
Tre Smith 6-1 F
Morris Adams 6-1 F
Dereaun Clay 6-2 F
Maurice Edwards 6-0 G
Damion Reid 6-0 F
Tyler Springman 6-0 F
Ty'ohn Trimble 5-9 G
Jonathan Bumpers 6-0 F
Kevin Caldwell, Jr. 6-0 G
Rashad Williams 6-0 F
Izeal Terrell 6-1 F