JEFFERSONVILLE — Senior Jacob Jones signed his national letter of intent to play for Wisconsin-Green Bay and senior Tre Coleman announced he was signing with Nevada during signing day festivities earlier this month.
Jeff begins play Saturday against Cincinnati Woodward as the No. 8 team in the Class 4A Associated Press poll and No. 6 in the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association poll.
But that duo is only scratching the surface of a talented Jeffersonville team that has state championship aspirations this season. The last, and only, Jeff state title in boys’ basketball was in 1993.
Senior Darin Starks was one of the state’s top 3-point shooters last year with 50-percent marksmanship and said he hopes to announce his college plans before the season gets underway.
Junior Devean Franklin should be poised for another solid season and sophomore Will Lovings-Watts has received some hype this off-season with his first Division I offer (Bradley) and a visit to the University of Louisville.
Sophomore Kobe Stoudemire, who averaged 20 points for the junior varsity last season, could also have an impact for first-year coach Chris Moore.
“There’s probably those that watched this team last year and thought they knew who the guys were gonna be. We have more than one or two guys that can do some things,” Moore said.
To that point, one thing Moore will be emphasizing in preparation for the season-opener is the team working together to get the highest-percentage shots at the offensive end.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can score the ball. I think they realize that — but getting them to where they want to share the ball — I’m not saying they’re a selfish group, not at all,” Moore said. “But we’ve been emphasizing share the ball, spread the floor, maybe pass up a good shot for a great shot. See these guys excited for their teammates to where they’re a cohesive unit.”
The group became a strong unit late in the season last year, winning 10 straight games and the Class 4A Seymour Sectional crown.
“We have a real good team with good experience and can do really big things this year,” said Coleman, who averaged team-highs of 16 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 2.1 blocks as a junior.
The Red Devils have already been mentioned as one of the top contenders for a 4A state championship by statewide observers but Coleman welcomes that type of recognition.
“I don’t think there’s any pressure. We don’t look at it like that. We just go out there and play. We know one another really well and it’s just second nature to us,” Coleman said.
Senior point guard Jacob Jones, who’s committed to Green Bay, was among the state’s leaders in assists last season to go with an 11.4 scoring average and 43 percent 3-point shooting.
“I think the main thing is everybody matured a lot and started to be more consistent in practice. We’re just excited to get started, to play in big atmospheres in front of crowds,” Jones said prior to the start of official practice.
Starks was Jeffersonville’s No. 2 scorer last season at 12 ppg with 57 made 3-pointers. Senior guard Caleb Mason was another guy who shot above 40 percent from 3-point range and was second in makes to Starks with 28.
So Moore will have a large number of strong outside shooters to depend upon.
Starks said the adjustment period to a new coach following Joe Luce’s departure has been smooth.
“The whole transition was pretty sudden and happened pretty quick, but the time we’ve spent with [Moore] has been really good. He’s a really strong leader and he’s really getting us prepared for the season and for college and beyond. He’s pushing us to our limits and challenging us every day,” Starks said.
Lovings-Watts, a 6-foot-5 wing player, did a lot of damage inside the paint as a freshman, attempting only eight 3-pointers. But he figures to see an expanded role.
Moore just wants to see the rising sophomore continue to develop his game within the team dynamic.
“He’s talented and I just want him to know he’s got five seniors that can carry some of the load and he can help them carry the load for them as well. It’s about having each other’s backs,” Moore said. “He shouldn’t feel any pressure that he had a good freshman year and now he’s getting some attention here and there, that he’s got to make this big jump. I expect sophomores to make a jump, I do, but he shouldn’t have any pressure at all.”
As Jones alluded to, the Red Devils play a tough schedule with plenty of marquee opponents.
Perennial state power Lawrence North visits Johnson Arena on Dec. 7 and defending 3A state champion Silver Creek will look to avenge a 2018 defeat to the Red Devils on Dec. 20.
Jeff also travels to Cincinnati Woodward, who has a nationally-ranked sophomore point guard in Paul McMillan IV, on Nov. 30 and also visits Evansville Reitz, with highly-sought after junior guard Khristian Lander.
“From top to bottom, is there a tougher schedule? Pound for pound, it’s as good as any schedule in the area or in the state, maybe,” Moore said. “Lawrence North’s coming in here and we have Cincinnati Woodward with a Top 50 recruit. That doesn’t even get into our area teams. They’re taking it like ‘Let’s get ready for February and March.’”
Moore’s inheritance of a veteran team that has learned how to prepare for specific opponents can’t hurt. The team’s strengths are plentiful but team chemistry is definitely near the top of the list.
“Most of them have been together longer, since before the last couple of years. They genuinely like each other, the chemistry there all carries over. That’s always good,” Moore said.