High School Basketball Chat: Holmes Head Coach Mike Listerman
Holmes will be a very different basketball team this season without their perennial all-star James Bolden who has graduated and moved on to West Virginia. For the past three seasons, the Bulldogs have been carried by Bolden’s star power and various pieces to compliment the superstar.
What is left is hardly a scrap heap, though. Senior guard Markel McClendon is the new center piece to head coach Mike Listerman’s offense. For the last two years, McClendon has used the attention Bolden received from defenders to his advantage, exploiting the open space with good looks from outside and open lanes to the basket. Now Listerman will ask McClendon to take on the scoring load, but not to the extent that Bolden provided to him in years past.
“I think that he is ready,” Listerman said of McClendon. “He has played varsity for three and a half years since he’s been starting and he had a very good summer. If he can do that this winter and into March, he’s going to have a great year and we’re going to have a great year. He has to understand that he will get a lot of attention and that’s where the other ones come in. I think we will have better balance. Markel doesn’t have to score 20, but he has to score double digits.”
It’s important that the Bulldogs play as a well-rounded team that moves the ball with passing and plays lock up half court defense. In transition, they have the speed to burn past the opposition in the open floor and create easy buckets on the break, but it will be the slower, grind-it-out half court battles that Holmes must be prepared for other teams to try to use, particularly teams with good guards that don’t turn the ball over often.
“We have to redefine ourselves to some extent,” Listerman said. “We don’t have the one player that can go off and score 15 or 16 points in a quarter, so we have to work defensively. I think we have to get better defensively, especially in the half court. You’re going to see a team that moves the basketball by passing and screening for each other. I think that this team will have to rely on team chemistry and we have to make our mark by being solid defensively in the half court.”
The guards around McClendon have more than adequate speed and athleticism. Jordan Daniels looks to take over some of the defensive assignments that Bolden use to cover. Brandon Englemon has displayed a consistent outside shooting ability that should draw defenses to him out on the wings. Perhaps the most exciting player with an expanded role this year for the Bulldogs, however, could be sophomore Ravai Commadore.
“We’re going to want Ravai to be a force out on the floor,” said Listerman. “He’s worked really hard on his shooting and he has to continue to do that. Right now, he is in the best shape of anybody going into the first season practice. He has worked really hard in the weight room and everything we ask him to do, he does.”
In the front court is a group of players who are high on effort but not brimming with talent. Senior forward Andrew Arnold is well known for his workhorse-like qualities banging inside and pulling in rebounds. He is a skilled passer in the paint, but has struggled to score in the past.
Also underneath is Brandon Moore who is very tall and is becoming more coordinated every year. Last year, Moore had something of a breakout game in the 9th Region Championship game against Cov Cath and looks to capitalize on that nice showing beginning this year. Also returning to the Bulldogs front court is Jaiden Green and Donovan Saxton.
“Both are capable and at times they are showing some glimmers of brilliance out there. With that being said, we have to be a lot more consistent with what they’re doing,” Listerman said who also used to coach at Covington Catholic. “As they develop and get better and stronger, it’s going to help us. In the frontcourt, we’re going to be a lot like my teams from Covington Catholic. We did not have a lot of athleticism, but we had some good solid players that would work hard, they understood the game, they understood their role. The sky is the limit as to what these two guys can do. Donovan is one of our best rebounders right now.”
This season will be Listerman’s 42nd consecutive year of basketball. In that time, he has seen a little bit of everything on the court. There are some things that remain reliable in his season. One is the Bluegrass Buckeye Charity Classic played recently every season at the BB&T Center and will do so again this year. Holmes will take on Cooper in that event this season. Also on the schedule is a trip south to play Lexington Christian in December, the Bulldog Classic against Campbell County the week of Christmas, and the Toyota Classic in January against Casey County and possibly a second round matchup against Scott County.
“I’ve always liked that tournament. I like it at the end of January because it gives us about four weeks before the end of the season and it gives us a good measuring stick. Almost every year, the teams that are in that tournament, five out of the eight will end up in the state tournament. It gives you enough time to recoup physically and identify what we need to work on the last three weeks of the season.”
The future of the program is in the hands of new players now that Bolden has moved on. The talent and athleticism is there, as is the drive and determination. Whether it all comes to together the way Listerman envisions remains to be seen.
“This will be a different team from the Bolden years, but we have the same expectations in the end,” he said.
Holmes lost its season opener at (Lexington) Henry Clay, 84-61. The Bulldogs host St. Henry on Friday.
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor
Photo by RCN's Brian Frey