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Eagles' lack of size concerns Bennett

by Mike Nutter

SPORTS WRITER

CLARKSBURG -- Defensive intensity and an up-tempo pace have always been part of the basketball philosophy at Robert C. Byrd. This season it will likely take on greater importance for an Eagles' team which will likely not have a starter taller than 6-foot-3.

"We knew that was even going to be a bigger issue this year because we really didn't have those bigger bodies," Robert C. Byrd coach Bill Bennett said. "It probably would've been even bigger if we hadn't watched them over the summer.

"These kids played about 40 games all over the state and found a way to make up for a lack of height with quickness. We were able to keep the ball alive and be successful. The thing we really won't want to do is let teams get into a half-court game."

That's nothing new for a team which prided itself on constant, baseline-to-baseline pressure and trapping defenses.

In the past, however, the Eagles have had a big man to fall back on. Last season, 6-foot-5 Jake Lockett was a menacing figure in the middle. Before that was 6-6 R.J. Coleman.

This year's version is sleeker than those of year's past. Last season, Robert C. Byrd held its opponent to less than 60 points 13 times. Bennett figures that number may have to increase to offset the lack of height in the team's frontcourt.

"That's how we have to get our advantage to overcome that," he said. "Our defensive pressure gives us our edge."

Junior guards Migel Lockett and Matt Godfrey could be that harassing tandem Bennett is looking for.

Not that the offense will be hard to come back.

Lockett has established himself as one of the area's most explosive scorers, averaging 15.6 points last season despite missing five games due to a shoulder injury. Senior Matt Bealko (8.7 ppg.) was second on the team with 39 3-point field goals.

Lockett, Godfrey and senior Nick Alex are all football players who came into practice in peak condition with some minor injuries that Bennett doesn't see as being a factor this season. All three will be relied on heavily.

"The one thing about all the seasons is that they really seem to come at the right time," Bennett said. "I'm sure when basketball season is about over, they'll be ready for another sport."

Bennett said one aspect this season's team has the advantage over of those in the past is depth.

"When I look at this team I see about 11 guys who all look the same," he said. "There's a lot of interchangeable parts.

"It seems like before we've had about three or maybe four guys we could use off the bench. Now I see a lot of people who can contribute.

Sports writer Mike Nutter can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at mnutter@exponent-telegram.com