By Derek Oxford
@BCADerek

El Dorado Boys: Wildcats have eye on the prize

The El Dorado Wildcats have the potential to have a very good season, according to head coach Gary Simmons.
“With two returning all-state players in Czar Perry and Daniel Gafford, and another all-conference guard in Ryu Unice, the leadership and experience is there,” Simmons said.

The schedule is loaded, with the Wildcats playing in the Rumble on the Ridge in Forrest City with LR Parkview, Forrest City and Raleigh Egypt and Mitchell out of Memphis, and they’ll also play Auburn High in the Hot Bed Classic in Mississippi.

There’s another showcase they’ll play in, matching up with Ouachita Parish, La., Little Rock Mills and Maumelle.
“We believe this will help us make a run at the 6A state title by the end of the year,” Simmons said.

The lineup will most likely consist of Perry, Unice, Brendan Johnson, Gafford, with the final spot being up for grabs.

“Kyle Jordan, Daveon Hayes and Charles Manning will battle for it,” Simmons said. “(Manning) moved back from Smackover after making all-state last year.”
The conference lost some luster with the exit of Benton, LR Parkview, Pine Bluff and LR Hall, but Simmons says Hot Springs and Lake Hamilton will both be very good, and that rivals Camden Fairview and Magnolia will provide some competitive games.

“Daniel has spent most of his time this summer traveling to the EYBL circuit and to a couple of big-time camps, one of which was the Nike camp in Los Angeles. I would say during our preseason practices he did a good job working on his shooting and ball handling. He also worked very hard to get stronger during the spring and offseason. He has put on almost 15 pounds since last year.”

All of the Wildcats have worked very hard to improve in the offseason, according to Simmons.

“Czar lived in the gym and makes frequent 5:30 a.m. visits to the arena on school days to get in extra work,” Simmons said.


El Dorado Girls: Lady Wildcats will grow up in a hurry

Destinee Rogers’ unit is working extremely hard to be the best it can be.

“We have some solid seniors that should lead the way and good talent in the junior and sophomore classes,” Rogers said. “If we can get our younger players to do some growing up, we can be pretty good. The girls are really excited for the start of the season and so am I.”

The probable starting lineup is Breya Clark, Grace Murray, Lexi Pope, Mekaylan Hicks and Jada Wainright.

A new conference will be an adjustment, but Rogers isn’t too worried about it.

“There’s good teams all around Arkansas,” Rogers said. “We will take it one game at a time, give it our best, and live with the results. I’m not sure who the team to beat will be, I am hoping it is us. We will work hard every day to prepare for each game. We will prepare the exact same way  for every team and no one will be taken lightly.

Breya Clark and Grace Murray’s improvement will be key to the team’s success.

“They are both sophomore guards that I have high expectations for,” Rogers said. “I am throwing them in the fire every day because they are the missing pieces to the puzzle. They are getting better every day and accepting the challenge.”