Familiar faces in new places — or at least new roles — will be one of the overriding themes for area private-school boys basketball teams this season, as a number of new coaches and high-profile transfers aim to change the landscape.
Three of the five local SCISA squads have new coaches, though all three have some familiarity with their teams and opponents. Mac Tamminen moved from Hilton Head Christian Academy to John Paul II, and the Eagles elevated junior varsity coach Jon Zolnik to the varsity job. Buzz Bonds takes the reins at Thomas Heyward, where he has coached for 22 seasons but only one as a varsity head coach.
Perhaps more important, some key players moved around. Most notably, Ridgeland-Hardeeville transfer Trey Pusha joins Bonds at THA, adding to a talented roster that returns its top three scorers from a 14-9 team a year ago. Beaufort Academy added an influx of transfers to surround star Dawson Coleman, with Jaylen Reeves coming from Whale Branch and Elijah Fess and Ja’Sean Lawson moving over from Beaufort High to provide a deep backcourt.
One school where there has been little change is at Hilton Head Prep, where legendary coach Jerry Faulkner returns nearly everyone from last year’s 24-3 campaign, including first-team All-Lowco standouts Avern Montaque and Haddith Stewart.
The Dolphins remain the team to beat in SCISA Region 1-2A, but the Rebels will be a dangerous team to watch and Beaufort Academy should be poised for a deep run in SCISA Class 1A, especially after being tested against a tough 2A region.
FIVE TO WATCH
• Avern Montaque, Sr., F, HHP: Averaged 12.7 points and nine rebounds with 12 double-doubles last season
• Haddith Stewart, Sr., G, HHP: Dolphins’ leading scorer (16.4 points) last season, shot 50 percent overall and 39 percent from 3-point range
• Rashad Battiste, Sr., F, JPII: Dominant post player averaged 17 points and 8.3 rebounds last season in return from knee injury
• Dawson Coleman, Jr., G, BA: Lights-out shooter put up 22.7 points per game a year ago
• Trey Pusha, Sr., G/F, THA: Ridgeland-Hardeeville transfer is a “freak” athlete with incredible speed according to former coaches
Coach: Nathan Livesay
Overall record: 198-100 (12 seasons)
Record at school: 6-13 (1 season)
2017-18 record: 6-13
Top returners: G/F Dawson Coleman, Jr.; F David Matthai, Sr.; G Braxton Tolbert, Soph.; F Thomas Holliday, Jr.
Key losses: C Jaxon Spratling; F Max Emerson
Top newcomers: G Jaylen Reeves, Soph.; G Elijah Fess, Soph.; G Ja’Sean Lawson, Soph.; C Malachi Rodriquez, Soph.; F Brandon Trapp, Fr.
Outlook: Eagles will be deeper, more skilled, and more athletic than a year ago. Coleman is a bona fide star, and having additional ball-handlers will free him up to work without the ball. If the younger players grow into their roles, a state championship is not out of the question.
HILTON HEAD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
Coach: Jon Zolnik
Overall record: First season
Record at school: First Season
2017-18 record: 7-25
Top returners: PG Floyd Hargrove, Jr.; SG Brennen Studenc, Sr.; SF Daniel Harrington, Jr.; C Lukas O’Grady, Sr.; SF JP Peduzzi, Soph.; SG Liam Sirgo, Soph.
Key losses: None
Top newcomers: PG Cam Strickland, Soph.; PG Jace Blackshear, Fr.
Outlook: The Eagles are in rebuilding mode but have some young talent to build around. Zolnik’s focus is on fundamentals. HHCA will try to push the pace and use its athleticism to get opponents out of their comfort zone.
HILTON HEAD PREP
Coach: Jerry Faulkner
Overall record: 812-276 (39 seasons)
Record at school: 108-52 (6 seasons)
2017-18 record: 24-3
Top Returners: F Avern Montaque, Sr.; G Haddith Stewart, Sr.; G Tyrone Calloway, Jr.; F Stone McDonald, Jr.; F Jack Braun, Sr.; F Logan Blair, Sr.; F Hunter Hopman, Sr.
Key losses: G Ian Plummer
Top Newcomers: F Carson King, Soph.; F Luke Foley, Soph.; F Max Marko, Soph.; G Luke Bennett, Jr.; G Felipe Mendoza, Jr.
Outlook: The Dolphins lost only one key player off last year’s team and have a crop of promising players moving up from JV to bolster the roster. A tough schedule should have them prepared for a deeper run in the playoffs.
JOHN PAUL II
Coach: Mac Tamminen
Overall record: 59-81 (7 seasons)
Record at school: First Season
2017-18 record: 12-13
Top returners: G/F Rashad Battiste, Sr.; G/F Sam Summa, Soph.; G Melik Frost, Jr.; G/F Malone Kinard-Husinger, Soph.
Key losses: G Nyleem Wright, G Thomas Kender, F Mark Tigges, F Brad Tigges, F Amere Cherry
Top newcomers: G Mark Knight, Fr.; F Zach Doe, Sr.
Outlook: Tamminen takes over a young but talented team. Battiste is a force in the paint, but he will draw extra attention from defenses, so the Golden Warriors need others to step into key roles in order to have success.
Coach: Buzz Bonds
Record at school: First season
2017-18 record: 14-9
Top returners: G Bobby Payne, Jr.; F Zack Black, Soph.; G Bryce Tillotson, Sr.
Key losses: G Trace Lowther, F Owen White
Top newcomers: G/F Trey Pusha, Sr.
Outlook: Pusha begins the season sidelined by an injury suffered in the state championship football game, but when he returns the Rebels will have a wealth of weapons at their disposal. Few teams will be able to run the floor with them.
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