RUTLEDGE – This year’s edition of the Grainger High School Grizzlies basketball team may be a “bombs away” team.
Grainger returns two of their top outside shooters in Jaxon Williams and Emmanuel Atkins and head coach Adam Wolfenbarger likes where his team is as the season begins.
“We should be able to shoot the ball pretty well. These kids seem to like each other, they like being around each other and they play well together,” Wolfenbarger said.
In addition to Williams and Adkins, Wolfenbarger said there is another player opposing teams should keep an eye on in 2021-22.
“Drew Branson is really going to surprise a lot people. He is a really talented player who has had a lot of moves in his offensive game. Drew is long and athletic and is a better-than-average defender who rebounds pretty well for his position,” Wolfenbarger said.
One player who made a strong push at the end of last season and is expected to see significant time this year is junior Brady Smith. He is an All-State baseball selection who has already committed to play college ball at Virginia Tech and will be one of the biggest contributors to the Grizzlies’ success this season, according to Wolfenbarger.
“Brady, towards the last five or six weeks of the season last year, averaged over 20 points per game in JV and pushed for time on varsity. Two more weeks of the season and he would have been cracking that varsity level,” Wolfenbarger said.
The inside game will be anchored by Jake Hill and Landon Patterson. “Jake Hill will provide some depth for us inside. Landon Patterson is a really good rebounder but I think Jake is as good an offensive rebounder I have been around in a while. He really has a sense of where to go and how to get there,” Wolfenbarger said.
Senior Ty Overbay returns for his final season and is one of the most athletic members of the team. Other seniors include Colin Crider, Reece Jones and Jacob Chamberlin. In addition to Branson, Smith and Hill, the Grizzlies have a talented junior class in Ryland Burchett, Landon Dalton, Carter Briscoe, Logan Johnson and Bryson Bennett.
Several sophomores will be pushing for playing time and they include Brody Wells, Robbie Gowan, Jace Robinson, Jaxon Maxey and Isaiah Kyle. Rutledge Middle School had a successful season last year and now, a large number of those players are at Grainger and are members of the freshman team. They include Konner Kincaid, Brizen Solomon, Scout Hightower, Ethan Southerland, Elliot Debord, Hunter Cure, Grant Jarnigan, Cole Shelton, Ivan Stratton, Bradley Sturgill and Landon Foster.
Grainger plays in a tough district, which includes the defending state champion Greeneville High School Greene Devils. With realignment this season, there will be a new look to the Grizzlies’ competition.
“We lose the Greene County schools and add Cocke County and Cherokee,” Wolfenbarger said of the new district. “Greeneville is super, super talented and everything will go through them. It’s tough to have the state champions in your league but our guys don’t back down and I expect to get in there and fight with them. Cocke County could be sneaky good. We had a wild game with them over there last year and they are a hard team to play over there. They will be a team to watch.”