HERALD 2010-11 PREP BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Deerfield, SW Ga.'s only reigning boys state champ, rebuilding

Photo by Daniel Kay

Photo by Daniel Kay

ALBANY -- It doesn't take Deerfield-Windsor boys basketball coach Gordy Gruhl long to count his returning starters.

"Well, we've got Banks Kinslow. We've got Banks Kinslow, and we've got Banks Kinslow.'' Gruhl said.

That's what's left from a spectacular three-year run by the Knights, who were regulars in the Final Four in 2008 and 2009, then won the GISA Class AAA state title a year ago. They went 25-1, then said goodbye to just about everybody.

Still, there's nothing but confidence coming out of DWS.

"He's a good one to build around,'' Gruhl said of Kinslow, a 5-foot-11 guard who is also the quarterback for Deerfield's football team and likely one of the top baseball players for the Knights come this spring. "We're going to need his leadership.'''

Kinslow has just that -- leadership. But he also brings a lot more, and he will have a lot to lead this group. Deerfield might have sent the bulk of its team off to college, but don't expect the Knights to drop off the radar. The plan is to get back to the Final Four.

"He's a great leader,'' Gruhl said of Kinslow. "He's a leader on the football team, and he's a leader on the baseball team.''

Kinslow, who average 13 points per game last year, will be handling the ball and running the offense from his guard's spot.

Kinslow has the ability to break a team's back with long 3s or simply pick an opponent apart. The Knights like to run hard and everything they do is based on a Gruhl-ing (pun intended) defense that takes its toll on opponents.

The faces may be new, but Deerfield's game won't change.

"It's a new group but they have come up seeing how the basketball team does things,'' Kinslow said. 'They see we are a great program. (The varsity and lower level teams at DWS) run the offense and same defense as, so they won't have learn the offense and defense, but they will have to pick up to a lot faster speed and a lot more intensity. The transition is not going to be easy by any means, but they will pick it up.''

That tradition will help, too.

"I think it helps a lot,'' Gruhl said. "It will get you by for a while. It will have an effect. There are teams that are used to losing to us.''

And all that winning over the years should help push the new Deerfield kids, too.

"They don't want to be the bunch that takes the basketball program down the tubes,'' Gruhl said.

Kinslow may be the only starter returning, but Ramello Carter, a 5-10 sophomore, was the sixth man and played enough to make the All-Region team. He suffered a knee injury and didn't play in the postseason, but he'll be a valuable part of this year's team.

"I've played a lot of guys who started for me who weren't as talented as he is,'' Gruhl said.

The biggest addition, however, is Tyrone Culbreth, a 6-4 sophomore who will play inside. Culbreth started as a freshman at Albany High last season.

"He's kind of an inside-outside guy,'' Gruhl said. He can face the basket. He's athletic and plays with a lot of intensity.''

There are only three seniors and no juniors on the team, but Gruhl believes, "this sophomore class has a chance to be a good one,'' he said.

Seniors Zach Cleland (6-8) and Stanley Chin (6-0) saw time last year and will be a big part of this year's team, and sophomores Sam Shellhaas (6-2), Pete Langstaff (6-2) and Weston King (6-3) are all in the mix.

"I think we will be pretty balanced,'' Gruhl said. "Carter, Kinslow and Culbreth will share the bulk of the points.''

And plenty of balance elsewhere on the court.

"We have to jell together. Our chemistry has to get there,'' Kinslow said. "We've got to distribute the ball and play good defense. If we can be an unselfish basketball team and have that desire to win, we can make good things happen.''

That's what usually happens at Deerfield.

"It's exciting,'' Gruhl said. "We've got some kids who have some talent. Last year we had a veteran team. This year it will take some time to gel, but the good thing is they hold the state tournament at the end of the year.''