St. Joseph’s Green and White Scrimmage signifies the beginning of another hoops season for the Irish. As his players cracked jokes, stretched, and prepared to play this intra-squad game on Monday, Irish head coach James Hunter said he has high hopes even as he starts defense of St. Joseph’s state title from last season.
“We won the state last year, four straight district titles before that and three regional titles,” he said. “So, the standard is pretty high around here and we’ve built a program that is expected to perform at a high level.”
This year’s team combines experience with new talent. Three of the Irish’s five starters returned this season. And the team has benefitted from the transfer of talent from within the Delta (Ray Brooks and Greenwood) from as far away as Tennessee and Texas. “This team will be a little bit bigger on the interior compared to last year’s team,” Hunter said. “We lost our leading scorer from last year, Dillion Johnson and our man in the middle, Trey Benson.”
Some of the Irish’s key returning players include Jerrian King, Raphael Henry, Jordan Scott, and A.J. McCloud. These players are experienced, and all have reached the pinnacle of prep athletic success. This year’s quest for another title, even with this group of battled-tested veterans has gotten increasingly tougher this season.
“I believe we play in the toughest district in the state,” Hunter said. “Manchester and Greenville Christian are always good. And this year, Greenville Christian has a very talented team.”
Opposing teams will also have their hands full when they face the Irish with their relentless aggravation of other team’s ball handlers and offensive stars.
“I’m a big fan of Nolan Richardson and the defense that he referred to as 40 minutes of hell when he coached at the University of Arkansas,” he said. “We play to run, use our athleticism, get steals and let our defense turn into offense.”
After all, this type of dogged defense and effort is what made them the defending champs. “Last year, we built the house with a state championship.,” Hunter said. “This year, we will continue to add on to the house by defending our district and getting better as the season unfolds.