A group of super seniors are poised for one more run at 1901 12th St.
Nobal Days, who recently signed with Tulane University, is the inside presence for this veteran Park High School boys basketball team. Brothers Larry and Ricky Canady are two of the outside shooters. Richie Warren will bang inside with Days.
About all that’s missing from a team that went 21-5 and advanced to a WIAA Division 1 sectional championship is floor leader Rance Kendrick, who was especially a force in the postseason. He has taken his talents to Northern Oklahoma, a junior college in Enid, Okla.
If Zyiere Carey can replace Kendrick, the Panthers appear to have what it takes to make another deep run in the postseason. Maybe even the first state tournament berth for this team since 1960 is possible.
“This is their senior year,” Park coach Jim Betker said. “So you have one chance to do what you need to do to make it a special season.
“They know everybody is going to come out and try to play their best game against us and they have to be prepared to play.”
The Panthers will likely be without Betker, who underwent surgery after suffering a torn biceps tendon in his left arm, until around Christmas. Running the team in his absence are longtime assistants Gary Cotton and Tray Allen, the latter whom coached several Park players in AAU basketball.
The Panthers got off to a slow start Nov. 23 with a 68-54 loss to Milwaukee Washington, but Cotton is encouraged by what he’s seen.
“We’ve got guys who trust each other,” Cotton said. “As four-year varsity players, they know where each other is. It’s like a fine-oiled machine and you’re just working out a few kinks here and there.
“We’re seeing some goof things with these guys coming together.”
It starts with the 6-foot-9 Days and 6-2 Larry Canady, both of whom are entering their fourth year as starters.
Days, who is still developing an offensive game, averaged 6.8 points, 12.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 3.5 blocks and 1.8 steals as a junior. After signing with Tulane, Days has put the recruiting pressure behind him and can concentrate on basketball.
“He’s more relaxed,” Cotton said.
Larry Canady has been a proven scorer throughout his varsity career, averaging 11.7 points as a freshman, 17.8 as a sophomore and 17.0 last season. He also averaged 4.5 rebounds last season.
“I think things will be good for Larry this year, especially if we can take the ball out of his hands a little bit and have him play off the ball more,” Cotton said. “He will definitely be there for us in the end.”
The Panthers’ other returning starters are the 6-5 Warren, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.5 rebounds last season, and Ricky Canady (4.0 points, 2.5 rebounds). Warren had 10 points and 12 rebounds against Washington.
Carey started against Washington and responded with a team-high 17 points. He made three 3-point baskets and also had three rebounds and two steals.
He will solidify Park’s lineup after the graduation of Kendrick, but Cotton said there are other options at point guard.
“We’re looking at it as a committee,” Cotton said. “Larry has played there. Don’t be surprised if we have Nobal running some of the offense. But we look for Zyiere to continue to start and maybe pick up some of that scoring.”
Other strong candidates to receive playing time include 6-2 senior forward Steve Henderson, 5-10 senior guard Demonta Hudson, 5-9 junior guard Terry Gamble and 6-9 senior forward Malachi Alexander.
“We want to be playing our best basketball come February and March,” Cotton said. “And if everything stays according to plan, I expect us to be in strong contention in March.”