By Kyle Roberts
Ruston High boys’ basketball coach Ryan Bond understands that with football success comes a temporarily shortened hoops roster.
But that’s okay for the head ball coach– it’s a great chance to see what contributors he has at his disposal on the hardwood before district and the playoffs begin, when a majority of his team returns from the football squad.
“They’re going to have a dress rehearsal of sorts to see if they can step up and play when it really counts,” Bond said. “We know with the guys on Friday night (at football) are capable of on a basketball court. The news guys will have to show us what they can do. But I’m excited to see the level of growth from our first practice and workout to now.”
Following a run to the Non-Select Division I Boys Basketball semifinal game last season, Ruston returns a huge chunk of the team but will be looking to fill the void in production that will be left after Braylan McNeal finished his senior season averaging 15.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.
“We do have a lot of power,” Bond said. “We’re going to look a whole lot different early because of the football guys. They’re going to be a lot of new faces, too.”
Ruston’s season will start without footballers senior Zhy Scott, juniors Aidan Anding, Zander Hayes, Zheric Hill, Joran Parker and Fabian Stringfellow, and freshman Ahmad Hudson. Bond spoke specifically about players to watch for early in the season.
“We have a transfer in from Quitman in Mason Delaney,” Bond said. “He’s done a good job for us so far here in the preseason and workouts. He’s going to continue to improve. A familiar name is Lonnie Dimmer, he’s a two-year starter and played a lot minutes and second team all-district. He’s been tremendous as a leader; not only on the court but in the weightroom.
“Then we have Kaleb Dobbins as another senior, who has been dressing since he was a freshman. His role is going to have to change; he’s been a defensive specialist, but now, he’s going to have to shoot the ball and attack the basket.”
McNeal’s younger brother, Zaterrion Sutton, will also be expected to contribute, while freshman KeShun Malcolm should see meaningful minutes.
“He’s a basketball kid,” Bond said about Malcolm. “His mom is a coach, and he’s a smart player and he’s driven. He pushes himself and wants to be better.”
Bond also talked about sophomore Hudson Paul as an expected contributor in the post, while junior CJ Malone is seen as a good shooter.
Following football season, Ruston fans will finally get the chance to see freshman Hudson in action, who has dazzled on the gridiron as a wide receiver this fall.
“I think the sky is the limit for Ahmad,” Bond said. “I think he can be special. He just has to get over here and get in the mix and learn. His athleticism, his feel for the game; it’s at a very high level. I think he fits in well with the guys, and he’s a great teammate and great kid. A lot of times, teachers come up and tell me how well Ahmad is doing in the classroom, and that’s what it’s all about.
“And our entire team: we’ve got great kids. We want to help mold them into great fathers, great people. That’s what we want.”
Ruston begins its season on the road tonight at Minden. Tip off for varsity is at 6 p.m.