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Team Preview: Conner
11/21/2012 - by Ryan Roberts
Cougars have high hopes

Coming off a disappointing 9-18 season, the Conner Cougars are looking to make strides to get them back to the 9th Region Tournament for the first time since the 2007-2008 season. The Cougars will come into this season as the preseason #7 team in the Coaches Poll but that hasnít changed Coach Jim Hick's expectations of his team.

"Weíre continuing to get better everyday," said Hicks. "Weíve been out of the region tournament the last 4 or 5 years and we want to get back."

The Cougars will be led by a front court of 6í3 Drew Barker and 6í2 Brady Padgett.

Barker is also a standout quarterback for the football team, with a long list of Division I and SEC suitors on the gridiron. Coach Hicks feels his success on the football field will help carry over to the hardwood.

"Drew brings strength and experience to our team. His will to win and never quit attitude are great attributes for us," Hicks continued. "He has been a great leader for us and I think he can be a beast inside."

"Iím still trying to get back into things (from football)," said Barker. "Last year I was a role player as a ball handler, so my face up game and ability to play both inside and out has improved since last year."

Although he lacks size of most post players, Brady Padgett will compliment Barker with the experience he brings from last yearsí team as well as his quickness and versatility.

"A lot of people donít think he can accomplish what he can," said Hicks.
He has deceptive quickness and is very crafty with his game."

Although he isnít a true front court player, 6í4 Sam Hemmerich will be counted on to use his versatility to stretch defenses and keep them from keying on the big guys. Hemmerich has put in work in the weight room and Coach Hicks feels like it will make him that much tougher to defend.

"Samuel is an outstanding shooter," Hicks said. "Heís adding the ability to shoot off the bounce and put a tremendous amount of work in (during the offseason) in the weightroom."

Coach Hicks added that the additional strength and size has made Hemmerich more confident.

"He will create a lot of mis-match problems for the opposing team. Coming back with experience in the post and Sam hitting outside shots, teams wonít know how to guard us."

The biggest issue for the Cougars will be the inexperience at the point guard position but Coach Hicks and Barker feel like it is a work in progress with Junior Andrew Way, who didnít play last year, and Sam Riddle.

"Sam and Andrew will split time (at point guard) and be on the floor together a lot," said Hicks. "Our three guards have gotten better. Andrew has gotten a lot stronger since his freshman year."

"Iím looking forward to playing with these guys this year," said Barker. "This yearsí team comes to practice and works hard, pushing to get better."

Expect Conner to get up and down more this year offensively with the improved team speed.

"We arenít the tallest team, but weíll get out and run with anybody," said Barker. "We struggled at the point last year but with Andrew Way back and Nick Watts, we should be able to step up and fill that void."

Standing in the way of the Cougars will be their district rivals in Boone County, Ryle, and preseason #2 Cooper. Coach Hicks talked a little about his teamsí goals.

"Our main goal is to handle one district opponent at a time and get back the district championship."

With the 33rd District being more wide open than yearsí past, the door is wide open for Conner to achieve their goals and get back to the regional tournament, where anything can happen.

"I think we can get back to the region (tournament)," said Barker. "We beat Cooper last year so we have the mindset that we can beat them. Thatís going to be a really good match up. We are hoping to be district champs. Coaches are pushing us and thereís a new mentality."

The Cougars wonít have to wait long to see how they stack up with the best in the region. They open their season November 30th against Ludlow and turn around the very next night and travel to Union to take on the Cooper Jaguars.
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