Photo by Bill Roseberry
(Front row, from left) Marcus Latham, Nigel Harris, Kevin Caldwell, Josh Lovings, Lavonte Hobbs and Maurice Edwards; (back row, from left) Darrius Edwards, Demonte' Wigfall, Carlos Anderson, Bryan Hudson, Dalon Henley, Darius Collins, Isaiah Thurmond and Rocky Alderman.
The 2013-14 season didn’t end the way the Alton Redbirds had it scripted. This season, the Redbirds are looking to rewrite that ending.
Alton dropped three of its final five games in ‘13-14, including a 64-48 loss at Quincy in the first round of the Class 4A Quincy Regional. The Redbirds finished 22-6 and 10-4 in the Southwestern Conference.
With a plethora of returning talent, third-year AHS head coach Eric Smith is hoping to erase the remnants of that memory very quickly.
“We felt like pretty much we had our destiny on our side with all the control we had to go out and win a conference last year,” Smith said. “We kind of fizzled out at the end. I would hope some of that experience, understanding how rough the conference is going to be, and what we need to do on any given night to be successful is going to be a strong point for us, because we had a lot of kids that played some significant minutes for us last year.”
The biggest shoes for the Birds to fill this season will be those of their two starting guards from a year ago, who also happened to be their leading scorers. Mike Williams-Bey (14.5 ppg.) is red-shirting at Lewis and Clark Community College this year, while Detae McMurray (13.0 ppg.) is a freshman player at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville.
Smith hopes the high-level guard play of McMurray and Williams-Bey can be matched this season.
“That’s the million dollar question,” Smith said. “We’ve got a lot of kids that got a lot of experience last year. I think the biggest thing we’re going to miss is the down and dirty that Detae and Mike brought us. We haven’t necessarily proven that we’re down and dirty yet.”
The focal point may change a little this season with strong post presences from seniors Carlos Anderson and Bryan Hudson. Anderson has already signed with SIUE to play basketball, while Hudson inked a deal to play baseball at the University of Missouri.
A broken hand slowed Anderson last year, as he only played 13 games, averaging 10.4 ppg. and 4.1 rpg. Hudson chipped in 9.5 ppg. and a team-high 4.2 rpg.
“Those two will be pretty good players for us in the conference,” Smith said. “Selfishly, I’d probably say it’s one of the better one-two punches for post players that the conference has. The nice thing for us is we have some extremely talented perimeter kids too, so I don’t think it’s going to be a situation where we have to count on one guy to carry us, or one guy to be the focal point. On any given night we might have six or seven kids that have an opportunity to lead us in scoring.”
Seniors Darrius Edwards (10.3 ppg.), Lavonte Hobbs (3.3 ppg.), Demonte’ Wigfall (3.8 ppg.), Josh Lovings (3.5 ppg.) and Isaiah Thurmond (4.8 ppg.) also will be major contributors during the season.
Smith sees some younger players chipping in, too.
“We could potentially name off 10 or 11 kids,” Smith said. “We may be that deep starting out because obviously the (running) style of play we want to do and the ability we have with multiple kids to play multiple positions to do some different things. Marcus Latham has had a really good summer and has improved quite a bit. Maurice Edwards has got potential for a nice future to be a pretty good player in the conference. Once we kind of get through our seniors and some of those younger kids get opportunities, we’re going to be deep.”
As for the conference, it will be a grind, like always. Edwardsville and Belleville East could take a small step back, but teams like Collinsville, Belleville West and Granite City should be better. Then there is East St. Louis and O’Fallon, which return some experienced veteran talent like Alton.
“There may not be that one dominant team like there has been in the past, but parity-wise, I think it will be pretty good for the league in general,” Smith said.
“Our kids have worked to be better and we hope that pays off for us. With the disappointment we experienced last year, I hope that gives them a little more of a drive to finish stuff out.”
ALTON REDBIRDS BOYS’ BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
Nov. 24-29 – Alton Tip-Off Classic
Nov. 25 – vs. Northwest Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 26 – vs. Jacksonville, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 – vs. Vashon, 7:30 p.m.
Nov. 29 – vs. Chatham Glenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 5 – vs. East St. Louis*, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9 – at O’Fallon*, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 12 – vs. Granite City*, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 – at Ramey Shootout (Vashon), 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 19 – at Collinsville*, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 29-31 – at Centralia Holiday Tournament, TBA
Jan. 6 – at Belleville East*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 9 – vs. Belleville West*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13 – at East St. Louis*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 16 – vs. Edwardsville*, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 17-19 – at Washington Team Works Invite, TBA
Jan. 24 – at Quincy, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 30 – at Granite City*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 6 – vs. Belleville East*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 13 – vs. Collinsville*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 20 – at Edwardsville*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 24 – at Belleville West*, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 27 – vs. O’Fallon*, 7:30 p.m.
*Denotes conference games.
ALTON REDBIRDS BOYS’ BASKETBALL ROSTER
Coach: Eric Smith
Record last season: 22-6
Career record at school: 36-24 (2 years)
Carlos Anderson, 6-3 G-F
Darrius Edwards, 6-0 G
Bryan Hudson, 6-7 F
Demonte’ Wigfall, 6-2 G-F
Nigel Harris, 5-9 G
Lavonte Hobbs 6-0 G-F
Dalon Henley 6-3 F
Darius Collins, 6-1 F
Josh Lovings, 5-10 G
Isaiah Thurmond, 6-0 G
Marcus Latham, 6-1 G
Maurice Edwards, 6-0 G
Kevin Caldwell, 5-9 G
Anderson is entering his third year as a starter for the Redbirds. Now a senior, he looks to lead Alton with his athleticism after averaging double-digit scoring the last two years. He will use a combo of an outside and inside game to be the focal point of the offense.
Standing at 6-7, Hudson will provide a true inside presence for Alton during his senior season. He averaged 9.5 ppg. and a team-high 4.2 rpg. a year ago. He will team with fellow senior 6-3 Carlos Anderson to offer a good size advantage for the Redbirds.