Montevallo basketball team expecting “big year”

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor 

Size, speed, athleticism and health. The Montevallo Bulldogs have it all going into the 2019-20 season.

That’s something the Bulldogs haven’t been able to say in recent years due to injuries, which has expectations soaring ahead of the new season.

“We expect to have a really big year,” head coach Greg Dickinson said. “I think we have a chance to make a state championship to be honest with you.”

And Dickinson has a reason to feel that confident.

His Bulldogs will return leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Jamarius Carter, leading scorer Michael Jones, third-leading scorer Kial Cottingham and a cast of others, including Jabrian Sullens, who was expected to be last year’s leading scorer before an ACL injury sidelined him the week before the season.

“With all those guys back and healthy, we should be able to play a lot faster and we’re big,” Dickinson said.

Montevallo still had a special season last year and went on to advance to the state tournament with some extremely young talent leading the way, including Jones.

A freshman a season ago, Jones averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game despite facing a frightening injury that many weren’t sure he’d come back from.

“Michael’s injury last year was when our team chemistry really came around,” Dickinson said. “He was playing lights out and he had 16 points in first quarter of game before he was injured.”

He ended up coming back to have a special season after the scary injury, and is now one of the best returning guards in the county as just a sophomore.

He’ll also have the help of Cottingham in a guard position, who was a freshman last year as well and averaged 8.1 points, three rebounds and 2.9 assists per game.

And those two guards will have a plethora of big men to feed the ball to. It starts with Carter, who brings back nine points and 9.8 rebounds per game from last year in an offense that ran inside out.

This year, the Bulldogs won’t just have him, but they’ll also get Sullens back, who stands close to 6-foot-5, as well as Dylan Campbell, who is 6-foot-3 with a big frame.

“Jabrian started out as the worst player on the team during his sophomore year,” Dickinson said. “He became a monster. His junior year, he was about to get a ton of offers before getting injured. At one point during his sophomore season, he ripped rim off the backboard and broke it. We were trying to get reimbursed for it, but nobody believed that a sophomore in high school could have done that.”

And while the Bulldogs will have that size, their athletic and in-shape big men so the defense won’t have to change.

“We can still press hard with them and that’s what we’re going to do,” Dickinson said. “We definitely won’t sit back in the half-court defense because I don’t want them to get relaxed.”

That height is something that has the players confident going into the season.

“With our height, we’re a team that’s very confident,” Sullens said. “Height gives you a boost. With us having a lot of height, there will be a lot of guys that won’t be able to handle us this year.”

It’s also a team, while it will have some young players with big minutes in Cottingham and Jones, that will have great senior leadership with sis seniors on the roster.

“This is a special group of seniors,” Dickinson said. “If I want to play them the entire night, they can get it done. They play well together and get along.”

But it’s also a group that challenges one another.

“When we have a guy not doing what they need to, somebody gets them in check,” Dickinson said. “They’re intense at practice and sometimes I have to remind them they’re on the same team because they’re so competitive and get after it, but that motivates them to be their best as well.”

Montevallo will start the 2019-20 season on Thursday, Nov. 14, with a home game against West Blocton.