The Wildcat head coach adds a talented transfer to three starters that return from last year’s 20-11 team that finished as runner-up in both the All-A Second Region and Fifth District.
"Our goal this year is to win 20 games, and go to the state in both the All-A and Sweet 16. They may be lofty, but those are our goals," said Chumbler, who has compiled a 38-21 record in two seasons as Wildcat head coach.
Trigg County will put one of their most athletic teams on the floor in the history of the program, which should be enough to win some games when their fundamentals aren’t up to snuff.
Kenny Turner was one of four starters expected to return to the floor in 2004-05 after setting the school record for blocked shots in a season as a junior.
However, Turner has committed to play football next year at Kentucky and decided not to play basketball so he could focus on meeting the academic entry standards and get stronger in the weight room.
While most teams would be smarting with the loss of a 6-7 center that averaged 16 points and nine rebounds, the Wildcats may make the adjustment just fine.
We were disappointed that Kenny didn’t play because of the time we’ve spent with him the past two year," Chumbler said, adding that he thought Turner was going to play as late as October.
"We thought we had it worked out where he could do weightlifting, tutoring, and play basketball, but if he doesn’t want to play, we’re probably better off."
The Wildcats will definitely be quicker, which should lead to more transition buckets, Chumbler said.
"We’re a quicker team, no doubt. But, we’ll continue to go inside and get more points in transition. We’ll run and press more than we did last year and should be much quicker on defense."
Leading the quickness at the point is 6-2 junior guard Jeremy Jones, the team’s leading scorer at 17.5 points a game last year. He also led the team in assists (169) and was second in steals (44).
Jones also led the team in scoring in nearly half of the Wildcat games as a sophomore, including a 30 point effort against Marion, Illinois.
While Jones is one of the top offensive players in the region, Chumbler hopes he can mold into an all-around player, especially on defense.
"Jeremy knows his defense has been the weakest part of his game, and I’ve been pleased with his improvement so far. He should be a great defensive player, and he’s working hard on that part of his game," Chumbler said.
With a roster full of underclassmen and just one senior, Chumbler will also be looking to his guard to be a team leader.
"We haven’t had a true leader the past few years that you need on a team. Jeremy has done a good job with that this year, and so have some of the other juniors. When you’re under fire, your true leaders emerge," Chumbler said.
Junior Jamaal Boyd is another one of the juniors that will take on a leadership role, Chumbler said.
The 6-1 forward averaged 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 56-percent from the field as a sophomore last year.
While Boyd is a hard worker on the blocks, Chumbler has been impressed with his defense on the wing.
Junior Devin Tejada led the team in steals (48) last year and averaged 4.4 points a game while running the point for most of the season.
"Jeremy is our best ball handler and will run the point most of the time, but we have some plays designed for Devin to run the point and Jeremy to move to the wing," Chumbler said.
Sophomore Zack Wright proved to be the first player off Chumbler’s bench last year and averaged 3.4 points a game.
Wright and Tejada usually draw the assignment of guarding the other team’s best guard.
"Devin has looked good in practice and is shooting the ball well right now. Zack has worked hard on his game and is much improved from last year. They’re definitely my best two defenders at the guard slot," Chumbler said.
One player expected to move into a starter’s role and give the Wildcats an added dimension on their front line is 6-6 sophomore Russell Mackins, who transferred from Cairo, Ill. last year where he averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds as a freshman reserve.
"He only played half a game because they were blowing people out every night," said Chumbler, who was one of Cairo’s victims last year.
Mackins, who was listed as one of the top sophomores in Illinois by some basketball web sites, scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 12 minutes of Cairo’s 95-54 win over the Wildcats last year in the Marion Holiday Tournament.
"I think he’ll contribute right away for us," Chumbler said. "Cairo was a loaded team last year, and he would come in and contribute right away."
Mackins, who can touch the top of backboard square at the height of his leap, still has some areas to improve upon, Chumbler said, "But with an athlete like that, he can contribute with rebounding and defense. His post defense is excellent, and he’ll draw the assignment of guarding the other team’s best big man."
Chumbler also has the luxary of putting 6-7 junior T.J. O’Hara and 6-8 Jeffery Adams on the floor in the middle.
O’Hara scored nine points in 16 games last year, but has been impressive in early workouts this year, Chumbler said.
Adams, a top lineman in football, averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in 19 games last year.
"T.J. may surprise some people this year with his offensive moves around the basket, and Jeff will get some big minutes and make a difference in some games," said Chumbler. "We can go big or little, but I’d like to keep three players on the floor at the same time – Russell, Jamaal, and T.J. All three good defensive players, rebound well, and can score."
Chumbler gets some more depth at the guard spot, with Steven Wadlington returning to the team after sitting out last year.
The lone senior on the roster averaged 4.8 points and 4.2 rebounds as a sophomore.
"He’s a good shooter, but doesn’t shoot enough. He also plays good defense," Chumbler said.
Other guards who will lend depth to the roster are junior Rick Woods, and sophomores Stephan Smithers, Ryan Eubanks, Josh Freeman, and Dhayna Cavanaugh.
Juniors Rozelle Boyd and Will Anderson will see some time in the Wildcat frontcourt.
"Our early games will tell us who will perform and how much playing time they get. We have to see what they can do under fire," Chumbler said. "The talent level is so much better than when I started here. They understand my system and what is expected of them. They now know why we do things."
Even though the Wildcats gave up 60 points a game on defense last year – the lowest in over 20 seasons – Chumbler still desires improvement and feels this team has the size and quickness to lower that number some more and increase the number of steals (12.1) from last year.
"We have more defensive players this year. They should all be able to defend, and we won’t have to hide anyone on defense," he said.
Trigg County’s schedule is tougher than last year’s and includes games against several region favorites, including Heath (First), Hopkinsville (Second), and Russellville and Todd County Central (Fourth).
The Wildcats will also play several tough teams from out of state, including Charleston, Missouri (31-4 last year) and Cairo, Illinois (31-1).
"I didn’t make a schedule to win 20 games. I made one to prepare us to go to state. It all depends on our chemistry and how well they play together," Chumbler said. "We’re not only looking at the All-A but the big picture also. We think we have the athletes and players that we can compete with most anyone around here if everything falls into place."