The 59th District has some talent.
Pikeville and Shelby Valley look to be the teams that East Ridge and Jenkins will be chasing this season.
The Panthers won their third straight district championship in coach Elisha Justice’s third year as Pikeville head coach.
The Panthers are looking for their fourth straight title and to get back on top of the region as well.
Shelby Valley, East Ridge and Jenkins will try and dethrone the Panthers.
The 59th District is home to Shelby Valley’s Cody Potter who is one of the top players in the state.
Pikeville — The Panthers lost a lot of senior leadership and talent last year.
Gone are Kyle Watkins, Connor Roberts, Christian Billiter, Byron Sammons and JT Orem.
But the cupboard isn’t bare at Pikeville.
Rylee Sammons and Laithan Hall are two of the top sophomores in the state and will anchor the Panther roster.
Sammons is one of the best players in the region and the state as well. Sammons averaged 10.4 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game as a freshman. He is a long and lanky lefty who has a nice stroke from three-point land. Sammons shot 44.5 percent from three last season.
The sky is the limit for Sammons.
Also helping Sammons is Hall who is one of the top young point guards in the region. He played more of a role down the stretch for the Panthers last season. He averaged 3.6 points per game last season, but he will up his productivity this season because his role will increase.
Also Pikeville has Connor Byers back for his senior season. Byers is a tall athletic player. He is explosive and can score on the fast break and rebound and block shots well. He is one of the most athletic players in the region.
Grayson Harris will also be a factor for the Panthers this season. He can shoot from outside.
Also look for Zac Lockhart to play a big role for the Panthers once he gets done playing football and onto the hardwood.
The deep football run will put Pikeville behind the eight ball early, but once the football players get adjusted to the court, the Panthers will be athletic and fun to watch.
Tate Walters, Nick Robinson and Isaac McNamee will also see a lot of playing time during their sophomore campaigns.
Pikeville finished last season with a 23-9 record. The Panthers won the 59th District title and finished as runners-up in the 15th Region Tournament.
Pikeville won back-to-back 15th Region championships in Justice’s first two seasons.
The Panthers will try and get back to the top of the region.
Pikeville opened the season Monday night with a 54-49 win over Phelps. The Panthers will take on Cordia this weekend at Pike Central in the 119 Challenge. Pikeville will host 59th District rival East Ridge next Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Shelby Valley — The Wildcats have one of the best players in the state in Cody Potter.
The Wildcats have some good pieces around the sharp shooter and will try and make a run at the 59th District championship and the 15th Region title as well.
Shelby Valley knocked off George Rogers Clark in a preseason game; GRC is ranked No. 7 in the state in the preseason poll.
The Wildcats opened the season with a big 87-25 win over Jenkins Monday night.
Potter can play.
He is a top candidate to win Mr. Basketball.
Potter averaged 22.1 points per game last season and 9.6 rebounds per contest. He shot 43 percent from deep and 49 percent from the field.
The Wildcats lost second leading scorer Cameron Worrix to graduation, but return a good roster around Potter.
Keian Worrix returns as one of the top point guards in the region. He averaged 6.3 points per game last season and is one of the best passers and ball handlers around. He is fun to watch and is an excellent compliment to Potter.
The Wildcats also gained Eli Sykes who transferred from East Ridge. Sykes averaged 10.7 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game as a freshman with the Warriors. He will give the Wildcats a post presence. If Shelby Valley wants, they can use Sykes and senior Peyton Blackburn have two strong post players inside.
Kaden Robinson, Aaron Bates, Zach Johnson and Jacob Caudill will all see a lot of playing time for the Wildcats this season.
Freshman Chaz Brown will get a lot of playing time as well. He has a high upside. He can score the ball and pass as well.
Eighth-grader Russ Osborne will also give the Wildcats some extra depth once he returns from an injury.
Shelby Valley should have a lot of athleticism and depth this season.
Shelby Valley is looking to make noise in the district and the region.
The Wildcats (1-0) will take on Cordia tonight at 7:30 p.m. at home and will take on Spencer County at 4:00 p.m. Saturday at Pike Central in the 119 Challenge.
Shelby Valley will host Johnson Central next Tuesday and visit Floyd Central next Thursday. The Wildcats will take on Pike Central at home December 16 before competing in the Hi-Tech Signs/Graphix Holiday Classic at Prestonsburg Dec. 19-21.
East Ridge — Brody Justice takes the reigns at East Ridge as his first season as head coach for the Warriors.
The Warriors return starters Dalton Wellman, Hunter Damron and Cameron Hess.
East Ridge also returns Jackson Potter, Connor Puckett and Eli Rose who saw a lot of playing time last season.
Hess will return as the Warriors’ leader. He led East Ridge in scoring last season with 13 points per game and led the team in rebounding with 6.5 rebounds per game. Hess is one of the top post players in the region. He has good size and good touch around the rim. He can also step out to the perimeter and knock down the occasional three. He will draw a lot of double teams and his guards will get plenty of open looks because of the attention he draws.
Wellman was second on the team in scoring last season with 12.2 points per game. He likes to shoot the ball from deep. He made 37 percent of his threes last season.
Damron averaged 6.7 points per game last season. He will look to improve even more this season after Kane Taylor graduated and Eli Sykes transferred to Shelby Valley. Damron can shoot from outside, but he can get to the basket as well.
East Ridge finished with a 12-16 record last season.
The Warriors are scheduled to open the season tonight at home against Pike Central at 7:30 p.m.
East Ridge follows with away games at Belfry and Pikeville next Tuesday and Thursday. The Warriors follow with a home game against Prestonsburg and then visit Grundy. The Warriors will play in the Derby Classic Dec. 20-22 at Raceland.
Jenkins — The Cavs are looking to improve from last season.
Jenkins finished last season with a 3-27 record.
The Cavs do return some experience this season, though.
Jenkins fell to Shelby Valley in the season opener.
Payton Rose returns this season. He was the Cavs’ leading scorer last season. Rose averaged 13 points per game last season.
John Fleming led the Cavs in the opening game against Shelby Valley with nine points . Austin Johnson followed with six, Rose added five. Sean McCall scored three and Keegan Bentley chipped in two.
Jenkins has some depth this season.
Look for the Cavs to win more than three games this season.
Jenkins is scheduled to host Pike Central at 7:30 p.m. Friday night. The Cavs follow with a game against Jackson City at Breathitt County at 1:30 p.m. in the Peggy Moore Memorial Classic.
Jenkins will visit Pikeville in 59th District action on Dec. 17.