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Blue Devils hoops teams look for leaders
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    The Blue Devils are looking for leaders.
    After losing six senior off of last year’s state tournament qualifying team, including leading scorer Justin Houston, Statesboro opens the season tonight against Southeast Bulloch searching for someone to take charge of the club.
    “Someone’s going to have to step up and take leadership,” said coach Lee Hill. “Either vocally, or by action. That’s what we need right now.”
    Along with Houston, SHS lost Jared Houston, Morgan Doty, Nakeavis Hunter, Sean LeGree and Shanchez Ware, all of which played a pivotal role in Statesboro’s run to Macon.
    Forward Eric Ferguson and point guard Mario Jackson appear to be frontrunners to take hold of that leadership role, both of who started at times last season. Two-guard Paul Herrington, forwards Rashad Lee, Antonio Owens and Patrick Parker should also be vying for starting roles.
    Once football season ends, Deangelo Tyson, Diego Prince and Willie Sheldon could join the squad along with Roquell Gamble. Tyson, Prince and Sheldon should give the Devils an advantage inside.
    “I feel like we have a little more size,” said Hill. “This year I feel like we have more guys we could go inside too. I know one big question mark is we’re going to have to shoot the ball outside more. Because everybody we see they play us in zone and pack it in. We have to get some guards to get some outside shots.”
    In a preseason scrimmage against Bradwell Institute, the Devils shot a meek 20 percent, but only lost by 10 points.
    Newcomers Hill expects to make a contribution include Xavier Tolliver and Theo Rich.
    Defensively, where Statesboro has made its reputation, Hill said the Blue Devils may be forced into more zone than fans are used to seeing.     “I don’t know hot good we’re going to be in man-to-man so we’re looking at some match-up zone,” Hill said. “I think we can be a good match-up zone team because we do have some kids with some height with long arms. I don’t know how quick are feet are in positioning but we’re going to continue to work on it.”
    As SHS does year-in and year-out, the Devils stare in the face of another tough schedule. Non-region games with Johnson, Beach, Jenkins and Griffin, along with a tournament in Griffin and the Peach State Classic in Atlanta in December highlight the 2007-2008 slate.
    Hill added that, while defense is always the key, rebounding, especially on the offensive glass, will be vital to the team’s success this year.

Bennett leads
Lady Devils
    It’s the Monnette Bennett show, and coach Jeff Seier isn’t afraid to feature his star player this year at Statesboro.
    Bennett, who has officially committed to the Georgia Institute of Technology to play ball, is one of the top players in the state.
    “I have never put a harness on her,” said Seier. “It’s a minor concern that we rely on her so much, but what are you going to do? She’s good — give her the basketball.”
    Bennett’s presence on the court changes the dynamics of the SHS team altogether.
    “When she’s in the ballgame we’re a different team,” said Seier. “It’s not just that she can score. She’s an excellent passer, she’s our best defender and our second leading rebounder.”
    Without Bennett on the court, SHS will have to learn to continue to play competitive basketball. They found that out quickly in a preseason scrimmage against Bradwell Institute.
    “That probably was a blessing,” said Seier. “We had to learn how to play without her. The other kids had to adjust to handling the ball more and working harder to rebound and handling the press.”
    Statesboro lost three seniors off of last year’s squad, including Chelsea Connelly and Cassandra McBride. Joining Bennett in the starting lienup are likely to be Kittrella and Victoria Mikell, Gwen Jones and Tiffany Lee.
    Offensively, Seier said a move to a four-guard system looks to be the best-case scenario for his squad.
    “We have more guards than posts so we’re going to go to a four-guard offense,” explained Seier. “Lots of ball movement and we’ll drive to drive lanes, get some outside looks to try and spread people out.”
    The Lady Devils open with six games in eight days, something Seier said will help determine some depth early on. Statesboro has seven senior and one junior but is thin after that.
    The Lady Devils open the season tonight against Southeast Bulloch at 6 p.m.

    Chad Bishop can be reached at (912) 489-9408.