How are the county's boys basketball teams shaping up?
Denmark’s roster looks the same as it did a year ago, except for a couple of changes.
The school was without seniors last season, so the Danes knew they would keep the same core group of players heading into the second year.
Do-everything point guard Sutton Smith returns, as does big-bodied forward Adonnis Tolbert – both first-team All-County selections last season.
Well, senior Trevor Bryk won’t play this year and will instead focus on baseball.
Oh yeah, and the Danes picked up high-profile transfer Robert Cowherd, a 6-foot-5 sophomore who already has an offer from Georgia.
“It’s mostly the same core,” senior Michael Dougherty said. “Of course, we’ve got Robert from UGA – or, he has an offer from UGA. I played with him in middle school, so we know each other a little bit. It should be fun.”
You can forgive Dougherty for already associating Cowherd with UGA.
Cowherd played last season at Holy Spirit Prep, a private school in Atlanta that produced McDonald’s All-American and five-star recruit Anthony Edwards, who is currently a freshman for the Bulldogs.
Denmark coach Tyler Whitlock expects Cowherd to make an immediate impact for the Danes.
“I think where it’s going to come in and play to his strengths is when we play those tough games early in the year, I think he’s already kind of used to that competitive nature,” Whitlock said. “Those bigger, more athletic players – he’s used to playing that level of competition. So, hopefully bringing that experience to the team really provides a spark for us.”
Denmark finished 24-7 last year before bowing out in the Elite Eight to Woodward Academy, winning nine of its final 10 games of the season.
“No one expected it, really,” Dougherty said. “We had no pressure on us. We came into the season thinking we might win a couple games, and it just kind of took off.”
But Denmark will play a tougher non-region schedule this season.
The Danes’ first three games are against playoff teams, including a Nov. 25 tilt against a Gainesville team that went 20-9 last year and made it to the Class 6A Elite Eight.
“Last year, with the way we went out playing against Woodward – they were a very good team; definitely probably the best team we played all year,” Whitlock said. “So, knowing our sights this year, with pretty much everybody returning, the goal was: How can we best prepare our team to face up with a team like that?”
Whitlock said the team will replace Bryk under the hoop with junior Aaron McLaughlin, who is currently Denmark’s quarterback.
At 6-foot-5, McLaughlin adds size to a group that already features Tolbert (6-foot-6) and Ze’Vian Capers (6-foot-4).
Whitlock hopes adding Cowherd will take some of the pressure off of Smith, who averaged 19 points, 4.5 assists and 2.3 steals for the Danes last season.
“Last year, one of our biggest struggles was we didn’t have a real secondary threat past Sutton,” Whitlock said. “We had Adonnis, who was big in the post for us, but we didn’t have another guard for us who could get us a bucket when we needed one. I think Robert is really able to do that for us this year, at least that’s the hope for us.”