The Ripley Tigers are in an enviable position for a lot of teams. They have lots of experience returning and a group that has a “do whatever it takes” mentality to win ballgames.
Oh, and they play among the most ferocious defense in the Magnolia State.
All of these things are among the ingredients the Tigers will use to make a run into a super competitive 4A basektball playoff this season.
Our 2019-2020 season preview:
Defensive philosophy from the top down
Tiger coach Adam Kirk is a proponent of a defense first philosophy.
He might even be a defense 1st, 2nd and 3rd kind of coach.
The Tiger head man knows his team will be outsized most nights. He tells his team that a way to get around that is to win games on the defensive end.
So far in his Tiger career it has worked. He is banking on it working again this season.
An abundance of playmakers
If the Tigers are outsized they more than make up for it in playmaking ability.
Ripley is extremely guard heavy this season, led by senior playmakers Jesus Ruedas, Cam Rucker, Martice Rucker and Asa Howard.
Ruedas has been described as among the best ball handlers in North Mississippi. His ability to get to the rim opens up the Tiger offense. Rucker and Howard are both adept at getting the ball up the court, making a press against Ripley a fools errand. Rucker is a shot maker and a distibutor. The guard play is interchangeable, giving the Tigers much needed depth.
Post players that do the dirty work
The Tigers will face several opponents with height advantages, but post players TJ Storey and Alex Prather will get lots of work in the post this season.
Prather plays well above his listed height of 6’2, crashing the boards and guarding taller players using his strength and leverage.
Storey gives the Tigers their only true size advantage with his 6’5″, 280 pound frame. His job will be to guard the post and clean up loose rebounds for easy putbacks.
Look for Freshman Jamas Cox to factor into the mix on the post this year as well.
The Tigers will play a wide range of lineups given their depth, but two players could prove to be X factors this season.
Sophmore LaTrell Vance and Junior Sentavius Hunt could provide sparks and scoring in bunches, as well as being among the best athletes on the court.
Final Thoughts, games to watch
The Tigers play in an ultra competitive 4A this season and were flying somwhat under the radar headed into the season. A strong showing at the preseason Tupelo jamboree against Tupelo and Olive Branch may have elevated the Tigers in the eyes of some statewide pundits.
Ripley’s toughest division opponent could be their oldest rival in New Albany. A much improved Corinth in their division stands between them and another division championship.
The Tigers compete in the West Jones Christmas Classic against West Jones and Northeast Jones, as well as non district matchups against powers Potts Camp and Middleton, TN.