BRADFORD – Bradford enters the 2016-17 boys basketball season excited about the possibilities for the upcoming year.
Coach Mackenzie Perry, who is entering his second season as the Railroaders’ head coach, lost just one player to graduation, Drew Patty. The rest of the roster is back and ready to build on last year’s foundation.
“It’s looking very bright,” Perry said. “This past year we took some good steps, some positive steps in the right direction. We got a couple wins.”
Senior Alex Swabb returns to man the point guard position again for Bradford. Junior guards Andy Branson and Parker Smith also return to their starting roles for the Railroaders, whose backcourt returns intact from last year.
“Definitely my strength is going to be my guard play,” Perry said. “They’re going to be leading us just with their effort on the offensive end and defensive end.”
Bradford lost Patty in the front court but has junior center Josh Phillips returning to the starting lineup.
Senior forward Walker Branson will take the starting forward spot vacated by Patty.
“He has grown from his junior year to his senior year, and I’m expecting big things from him,” Perry said of Walker Branson.
Coming off the bench Bradford has junior Dialaquan Millhouse, who started some games last year for the Railroaders.
“Him coming off the bench is going to help us a lot definitely on defense and also in the scoring,” Perry said.
Junior Johnny Fike also is expected to be a key player coming off the bench for the Railroaders.
Because Bradford has so much experience returning, Perry expects the Railroaders to make lots of progress this year.
“It’s going to be good to see how we gel together as a team,” he said.
Perry now has more confidence in his players, he said, and he’s seeing them buy into the system.
“Last year I panicked a little bit because I didn’t think they could handle man-to-man defense,” Perry said. “This year I’m going to put more emphasis on man-to-man defense.”
With the players learning and Perry learning as a coach, they’re making a bigger commitment to the defensive end and limiting teams to a single shot per possession.
“I expect a huge improvement on the defensive end,” the Railroader coach said.
Now that the team has some experience, Perry expects Bradford to surprise some teams in the Cross County Conference.
“I’m looking forward to watching this team grow and hopefully make a lot of noise this year,” he said.
Though he doesn’t want to set a number on the amount of games Bradford hopes to win, Perry is confident that the Railroaders will earn more victories this season.
“Last year with had about eight games where we lost by about single digits or had a chance to win,” he said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.