BAKER — Graduation didn't hit the Baker School boys basketball team too hard. The only senior the Gators lost was post player Garrett Sanders, but there is still plenty of work for Coach Mike Martello to do.
The Gators also took a big hit when starting point guard Josh Hartzog transferred to Laurel Hill.
"Senior wise we only lost Garrett Sanders," Martello said. "He was a strong presence for us on the inside. We've got some strong bodies but nobody that has the experience he had so we've got a little growing up to do there.
Josh Hartzog was by far our best ball handler. He really gave us an aspect we lack this year in handling the ball when facing defensive pressure."
One of the options to replace Hartzog at point guard is Justin Morgan, who is probably the best returning player on the team. Morgan would ideally play on the inside, but Martello may not have that option as the Gators will probably use a number of players at the guard positions.
"Morgan is probably going to have to come out and handle the ball because we don't have a true ball handler," Martello said. "It could be a combination of (Austin) Hicks, (Austin) Walters and Morgan up top. Or we could go with (Brooks) Taylor, Hicks and Morgan up top.
"It's just a matter of finding what personnel works best for us."
The Gators might be inexperienced on the inside, but Martello is confident that they will be OK in the paint.
"I really like (Richard) Stroheker and (Austin) Martin underneath," Martello said. "I think Montae Barto will help us.
"I'm pleased with him. He's a big, strong guy and he's picked up things really quick."
Several football players recently joined the basketball team and Martello believes they will contribute in big ways as the season cranks up.
Stroheker, Martin and Barto are football players as are Calvin Blakenship, Jonathan Gatewood and Wilder Kersey.
Kersey is an option at both guard and forward. Blankenship is a first-time player who seems to have a good upside. Gatewood, who is a junior, gained valuable experience on the junior varsity last year and is expected to contribute.
Colton Kilpatrick started in the season opener against Rocky Bayou Christian. Kilpatrick will continue to be in the mix for a starting position.
Taylor, who missed the opener, gives the Gators a deep threat shooting the 3-point shot.
Baker's District 3-1A is again shaping up to be a gauntlet. Northview, Chipley and Holmes County are always tough. Jay has everyone returning from last year. And Freeport is an unknown with a new coach.
"We've got a lot of work ahead, but I feel confident these guys have got it in them to get the job done," Martello said. " I know we are not going to frighten anybody with athleticism.
"I hope that we will get out there and play hard. We've got a pretty deep bench and that's another strength we will have."
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.