Earning your wings: Last season's reserves become this year's backbone for Eagles
The Allen boys basketball team will have a markedly different look for the 2012-13 season.
In addition to having graduated all five starters from last year's playoff qualifier, the Eagles will have a new head coach patrolling the sidelines for the first time in four seasons after Jeff McCullough took over for the retired Steve Specht.
So it might be odd to learn of the optimism surrounding the state of Allen's basketball squad this season, but with Specht wanting to leave the program in a good spot for his successor, that has panned out thus far according to the newly-appointed McCullough.
"Things are off to a good start and we're pleased with where we're at so far," he said. "We've got a few guys out in football still and then two transfers caught up in some paperwork so we're a little thin right now. We're hoping at some point we'll have them all and I think we can be pretty scary."
The Eagles have been working with the hand they were dealt, with McCullough steadily acclimating personnel to his system.
"We should be a fast-paced team that gets up and down the floor," he said. "We're going to get after it defensively and I think we've showed that so far. We're not near where we want to be offensively, but that'll come with time."
As the roster continues to flesh itself out, Allen has the luxury of six returners from last season's team. All were role players or reserves last year and will be adjusting to expanded roles. Among those is senior Cameron Epps, who is slated to start at point this year. In the backcourt, he'll be joined by sophomore Olin Carter, whom McCullough said has begun to pick up some Division I recruiting buzz.
Junior Jackson Davis, among the aforementioned transfers, and senior Danny Gordon will also figure into the guard rotation.
Experience picks up in the frontcourt, which features juniors Myron Fisher and Tay Evans, both of whom flourished down the stretch last season.
"Evans is one of, if not our best player," McCullough said. "He's out in football right now, but he finished real strong last year. He's a big impact guy and a lot of the stuff we do is built around his ability to play different positions."
Evans and Fisher will be joined by Tay's brother Bobby, a 6-foot-6 sophomore who could provide a steady interior presence for the Eagles. Junior Shaun Breland also returns to the fold, while other frontcourt pieces include junior Nic Castrillon and 6-foot-8 junior transfer Jamuni McNease.
"I think we're going to be pretty versatile with what we do and bring lots of athleticism to the table," McCullough said. "We've got a nice combination of athleticism and size, plus I think we can be pretty special on the defensive end of the floor."
McCullough is looking for more consistency in the backcourt and better shooting.
Amid that, Allen's season opened with a 78-71 overtime loss to Garland Lakeview Centennial. That kind of productivity scoring was a rarity for the Eagles last year, with the offense eclipsing the 70-point barrier just four times.
But as the offense continues to round into form, the Eagles will also be tasked with overcoming the issue that faces any team boasting five new starters: experience.
"It's going to take some time to gel," McCullough said, "but I think by the time district rolls around, we're going to have everybody in the gym and playing, and we're going to be a pretty special group come playoff time."
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