By KEVIN HARRIS
The New Albany boys’ basketball team is almost finished with its summer season.
And according to veteran Bulldogs’ coach Jim Shannon, it has been a good summer.
Despite losing six seniors from last year’s 15-8 team, Shannon likes what he has seen so far from his younger players. He has especially been impressed with the improvement of 6-foot guard Leondre McBirth, who will be a senior next season.
“Leondre McBirth is pretty much the leader of this team. He’s been leading by example,” Shannon said. “We’re coming together as a team. We do not have much varsity experience, but we feel like we are making inroads.”
New Albany has been extremely busy this month. The Bulldogs competed in the Kentuckiana High School Summer Basketball League in early June and then went 3-0, including a big win over Doss (Ky.), in the New Albany Summer HoopFest on June 20 at The Doghouse.
Last weekend, the Bulldogs played in a United States Sports and Fitness Association tournament in Indianapolis. On Thursday, they started play in the D-One Camp in Fort Wayne and will be there the remainder of the weekend.
“We have been playing a lot of basketball in June,” said Shannon, who will give his troops July and August off. “Our team has been very competitive. Our team has become a closer team, and I think it will pay off next year.
“June is a whirlwind. You find out a lot about your kids. I’ve been very pleased with the summer, and I have no regrets at all.”
Despite a productive summer, Shannon says there is no guarantee that his team will have a great season in 2013-14.
“It’s way too early to tell. The summer is the summer,” Shannon said. “We don’t want to get too high, and we don’t want to get too low. We’re trying to find that happy medium.”
NEW ALBANY’S 2013-14 OUTLOOK
• COACH: Jim Shannon (263-86 heading into his 16th season at New Albany, 428-225 heading into his 30th season overall).
• 2012-13 RECORD: 15-8.
• RETURNING STARTERS: Leondre McBirth (6-0, Sr., G).
• OTHER KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jeff Byrne (6-1, Jr., F); Javen Reeves (5-11, Sr., F); Chad Hudson (5-7, Jr., G).
• DEPARTURES: Jermaine Parrish (6-0, G); Garrett Arnold (6-0, F); Josh Rogers (6-3, F); Louis Donastorg (6-3, C); Anthony Edwards (6-5, C); Conner Henes (6-5, C).
• 2012-13 SEASON RECAP: After getting off to a mediocre 4-4 start, the Bulldogs concluded the regular season by winning nine of their last 11 games. They thumped Seymour in the opening round of the Class 4A Seymour Sectional (85-30) and held off Jennings County in the semifinals (61-59). But New Albany failed to win its first sectional title since 2011, losing to archrival Jeffersonville in the sectional final 63-50. The Bulldogs finished third in the Hoosier Hills Conference with a 5-2 league record. Parrish earned a spot on the News and Tribune All-Area second team.
• 2013-14 PRESEASON EXPECTATIONS: The Bulldogs must have several young and inexperienced players grow up in a hurry if they are to contend for the HHC and sectional championships next season. McBirth will have to step up his leadership role on the team and remain healthy. Byrne has the potential to be a double-digit scorer at New Albany as he can shoot the ball effectively, especially from 3-point range. Hudson got his opportunity late last season to play point guard and showed he can get the job done running the offense.