Petal off to a hot start

By JESSE JOHNSON,

With the Petal Panther football team receiving most of the shine with their sSouth State run and District champs title, the men’s basketball team looks to steer the glory to the hard court and continue the progress made from the previous successful year.

Coming off a 20-9 season, the Panthers look to surpass last year’s achievements. If opponents haven’t circled them on their schedule yet, they might want to start paying attention to this energetic, disciplined and physical group of guys.

Led by Todd Kimble, who is in his 28th year of coaching, the Panthers are off to a hot start with an 8-1 record in the 2019/20 season.

Key losses are Don Avila and Landyn Shows who are both playing at the next level.

Avila is currently at a junior college in Utah while Shows is currently at East Central Community College. Both are getting minutes at the junior college level.

“Anytime you lose players of that caliber you’ve got to fill those gaps,” Kimble said. “I think we have done a great job at filling those spots but we have a long way to go.

Anthony Henderson and Deondre Harvel are also seniors who will be missed from the current season

The upside to only losing four seniors is the amount of experience returning for the Panthers and Petal looks to return seven juniors from a season ago.

Two of those, who are seniors, are the real deal and some. Their play will be a big part of the Panthers’ success heading into the remainder of the season.

Caleb Mcgill and Treylon Smith create that one-two punch and are a handful for defenders as well as defensive presence. Not too many schools have two playmakers whocan do the things this duo can do.

Mcgill is a freak of an athlete. The 6’5” 245-lb. forward looks more like a linebacker and has agility and smoothness with his game that few big men posses at this level. Mcgill creates mismatch situations with his size and athleticism that coach’s dream of. Mcgill is off to a great start, shooting 44.7 from the field as is looked upon as a key piece to the success that the Panthers will see this year.

As a junior, McGill averaged 19.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game and Smith averaged 16.8 with 2.6 steals per game in 2018/19. Both are recognized as Mississippi Dandy Dozen players heading into the year.

“When you’ve got a guy like that, it opens up a lot guys on the perimeter,” Kimble said. “It’s difficult to guard him one on one. In most defenses we have seen this year he has been double-teamed. The great thing about that is he is probably the best passer on our team. This allows him to get it to the open guy. He is very unselfish with the ball. A big part of our offense is built around that idea – creating situations and capitalizing on what the defense gives us.”

Smith is one of the most athletic players in the state. His 6’4” length has been mesmerizing opponents as he can literally take off and dunk with ease. The human highlight reel is looking to build off of last year’s inconsistency as he put countless numbers of hours in the gym.

“Last season Treylon had an up-and-down year,” coach said. “He has worked really hard in the offseason and you can tell with his play this season. He has recreated himself as a basketball player this season. He is shooting the ball from the perimeter really well and rebounding is better as well. His basketball IQ is really high so having a guy like him on the court is really important for us this season.”

“Trey is more a leader by example, whereas Caleb is more of a vocal leader,” Kimble said. “That’s the best of both worlds in my opinion. We look to them to carry the load and they have stepped up the responsibility.”

The Panthers don’t consist of just these two players as they look to have a strong starting five and the deepest bench during the Kimble’s career at Petal.

Marcell Blackwell, a 6’5” guard, got limited minutes last year and is off this seasons with a hot hand with exceptional shooting from the perimeter. Jamar Jenkins will start at point as a sophomore. Omarion Carter, who had 28 points this year against Brandon, rounds out the top five.

“Blackwell’s size and consistent shooting is a big factor of the team’s dynamics,” coach said. “He also does a really good job at locking up opponents on the defensive side.

“Jenkins is learning on the fly. Jamar is being thrown in the fire and has does a great job at the point position. Omarion has been a little up and down this season as far as consistency, but if he gets going he can be a huge factor for us at this point.”

Mitchell Guyse, Will Horne, Tyler Dailey, Jakalan Brown all play a considerable amount of minutes off the bench.

“I feel like our best basketball is ahead of us,” Kimble said. “We have signs of being a really good basketball team. I have also seen some inconsistency. We must improve on those areas if we want to achieve the goal of a championship.”