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Friday, February 23, 2024

Paris Boys Basketball Ready For Upcoming Season

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For thirteen years, Paris head boys basketball coach Mike Foster has coached Eagles basketball. And after thirteen years, Coach Foster remains excited about basketball at Paris High School.

Last season was the first year Paris did not make the regional tournament in boys basketball in some time. Coach Foster, in a recent interview, said, “It (not making the regionals) was the first time in eight years. So, we’ve put on a pretty good roll here; 2015, 2016, and 2017 we won two conference championships and we went to the state three years in a row and made a deep run in 2016 and 2017 and got to the final eight. Then last year, a couple of injuries hurt us and we ended up 15-14 and we missed the regional tournament for the first time.”

Like the senior girls team, the senior boys team will also be young. “This year’s team will be young as far as playing time goes. I’ll be counting on three players with playing experience and will be led by point guard Dylan Krigbaum. He has been playing point guard here since the eighth grade and he is going to have to have a good year for us to be good, and I expect him to. He’s about six feet, junior, and has a lot of athletic ability. He’ll be our primary ball handler. He’s going to have to shoot more this year, and he is going to play a big role in how we do.”

Paris will be led by two seniors, Luke Trusty and Nick Bazyk. “Luke Trusty will be my five man (low post) and he is coming out of football and I haven’t really had him yet. He played a little bit last year. Nick Bazyk is my shooting guard; got to have a big year from him. He’s about a 6’2″, slender kid, shoots the three ball really well. He started for me last year, him and Dylan both, but they didn’t have the primary roles last year that we’ve talked to them about this year, but they are going to have to step up their games and be scorers and leaders on the floor. Luke will be primarily a defender and rebound baskets and just be a big presence inside.”

To complete the lineup, Coach Foster is planing a rotation to fill in the spots around three returning starters. “We’re looking at a seven to eight man rotation and hopefully some other kids will come along. I have a junior move-in Travar Ambler from Pine Bluff who transferred last year as a sophomore. He’s slender, 5’10” kid, quick as a cat. He has been a pleasant surprise. He’s going to be a defensive pressure; he’s going to be able to put on a lot of defensive pressure on the ball. Again, he is a junior with very little court time prior to this year. Got to have him come through. He’ll be the two guard, while Nick will be my three man, and him and another sophomore, Maliciah Duncan, will split time there. They’re going to have to be those energy players on defense and be able to step up and hit an open shot and handle the ball in key situations. So, Maliciah and Travar will split time at that spot to start the season. Again, that’s two kids that haven’t had any senior high experience and will be thrown into the fire pretty quick.”

The rotation by committee will continue with the Eagles four spot in the lineup. “We’ll have a couple of kids splitting the four spot and they can both shoot the ball. They’re more guards than they are forwards; that would be Caleb Cunningham and Dylan Odom. They’re both pretty good size boys, about 6’2″. Again, not much playing time last year, and didn’t play a lot in junior high. But they have really come along. Both players are juniors who can shoot the three ball and both have scoring capabilities, but we don’t know how they are going to react when they are thrown into the fire. They’re doing a good job in practice, but when they actually get thrown into a game it will be how do they produce.”

Early in the season, Coach Foster, and his assistant coach Jerry Fulmer, will be playing different lineups looking for the best on-court combinations and chemistry that will give the Eagles the best chance to win in conference play. “We’ll be much better at the end of December, going into January, than we are going to be in November. We are going to be playing so much inexperience, and we will be looking at kids. I have a good sophomore in Cayden McDaniel who had a good ninth grade year last year, and he’s a football player, and he has bummed his shoulder up. I looked at him as a possible starter earlier in the year, but he will be a few weeks away from getting well; so he is probably going to help us later in the year.”

Coach Foster has a second move-in that he is excited about going into this season. “Jude Simmons, he’s about 6’1″; he and Luke will go head-to-head there at the five spot. He played at Subiaco last year in junior high and I have seen him a little bit, and I figure he will be in the rotation at the five man. He play’s football, so he can be physical underneath the basket.”

The conference schedule this year will be loaded with strong teams competing for district, regional, and state tournament berths. “The conference is as tough, I think it was a little tougher last year, with Booneville being so good and so big, and Fountain Lake was good, and Jessieville. It’s a tough conference. I would say Lamar; they’re big, athletic, and I expect them to probably be at the top of the conference with probably Fountain Lake right there battling with them. I think the rest of us are fighting for anywhere from third to seventh in the conference.”

The Eagles lack of varsity experience and depth will be the key factor for Paris this year. Coach Foster is counting on several players who have little or no senior high experience to grow and develop rapidly this season for the Eagles to compete for postseason tournament berths. It will be on-the-job training, indoctrination by fire, whatever cliche you want to use. But one thing is for certain, the Eagles will play hard, fast paced offense and pressure defense. If the upperclassmen can step up and provide the leadership early, and the newcomers develop rapidly, the Eagles could surprise some of the conference schools late in the season. Paris’s early season record will not be an indication of how good they will be in February. If this team comes together, the Eagles could finish strong. A strong finish this year with a relatively young and inexperienced team, combined with a talented junior high team that will join the varsity in the next two years, Paris could be looking at a team two years from now that could be a serious contender in their new 2020-21 conference.

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Jim Best
Jim Best
Jim Best is a man of many talents. His storied career in Arkansas education led him to a new passion, and hidden gifts in sports journalism.
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