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2009-2010 Basketball: A.L. Brown boys preview

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.comKANNAPOLIS ó A.L. Brown’s Shelwyn Klutz enters his 13th season as head coach, still looking not a whole lot different than when he coached his first varsity game for the Wonders in 1997.
Unofficially voted Best Dressed Boys Basketball Coach by the Post each of the last 12 seasons (Salisbury’s Jason Causby gets honorable mention), Klutz’s ties and jackets only get stronger with each passing year and his teams don’t get any weaker.
The 2009-10 version of the Wonders should provide more of the same from Klutz and longtime assistant James Allen, a pair of former Mars Hill Lions.
The Wonders won’t be big ó nothing new there ó but they should have enough athletic ability to compensate for a lack of inches.
As usual, Klutz has opened a season without the school’s football players. That’s what makes his career record of 166-136 (counting Thursday’s short-handed win at South Rowan) a lot better than it appears on the surface.
Brown hasn’t missed the football playoffs a single year since Klutz has been the head basketball coach, so he’s never had a normal practice schedule in the fall. The Wonders almost always go at least two rounds deep in the football playoffs, so he’s almost always had to play games before he’s at full strength.
Some years, like the 2008-09 season, he’s actually had to play conference games short-handed. Not to mention others, while his players are still trying to find their basketball legs and soften their shots.
For a while there, it looked like all those annual late starts were going to be a serious obstacle for Klutz as he opened his career 8-16, 7-19, 5-18 and 12-13. But things picked up. Brown has experienced just one losing season since 2001.
Klutz’s best team was his 2004-05 crew that included Garrett Sherrill, Ronnie Land, Heath Culbertson and Durrell Miller. That bunch won 20 games and the NPC championship.
Last season was pretty typical of Klutz’s tenure. The Wonders went 15-9 overall, tied for third in the SPC with an 11-5 mark and lost at West Rowan in the first round of the state playoffs.
Brown lost a lot from that team, including leading scorer Demarcus Phifer, T.J. Johnson, Jacob Newman, Zach Massey, Xavier Watson and Vance Chapman. Phifer will be the toughest to replace as he was a scoring machine with ballhandling skills. He was held below double figures in points just once all season.
Newman was versatile, a big guy who could shoot 3s, and he also won’t be easy to replace.
Klutz is never 100 percent sure which football players are coming out until their season is over and they show up in the locker room wearing sneakers, but he expects Jaques Deese, Tevin Jones, Spencer Falls, Desmond Gray, Terrance Knox, Jabari Watts and possibly another Wonder or two to join the fold.
Deese can score. He was averaging 11.1 points through the first 14 games ó second on the team ó when his 2008-09 season was interrupted by a wrist injury.
Jones adds quickness and scoring potential. He had a 13-point effort against Piedmont last season.
Gray, Knox and Watts would all bring bulk and muscle to the roster.
“They aren’t that tall, but they’re physical and will battle on the boards,” Klutz said. “We’re usually undersized, so rebounding is always the biggest key for us.”
Falls also has size. He didn’t play much last season, but he’s a good athlete.
Until the football players arrive, Klutz will count on a core group of Zach Fesperman, J.J. Jones, Ian Rogers and Chandler Reynolds to hold things together. He also got really solid play on opening night from freshmen Tevin Stark, Derrick Copeland and Michael Carr.
Fesperman is a long-range shooter. He launched a few airballs in the opener, but he also buried three big 3s.
“Zach’s a very good shooter, and we need him to take and make those 3s,” Klutz said.
Jones and Rogers are quick, slashing guards who will attack and earn their share of free throws. Rogers was 6-for-6 from the foul line in the fourth quarter of the opener.
Reynolds is a hard-nosed defender and rebounder in the post, and he doesn’t mind taking a charge.
Stark and Carr showed a lot of athletic ability and energy against South. Copeland showed a sweet outside shot and some ballhandling skills.
“If we rebound consistently we’ll be OK,” Klutz said. “I don’t know that we’ll have a great shooting team, but we’re hoping we can live off our defense and get some easy buckets.”
Concord is the obvious favorite in the SPC, which is now strictly a Cabarrus County conference. The Wonders should be in the top half and may climb as high as second.
Look for another winning season and more sartorial splendor from Klutz.

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