By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Mount Vernon’s boys, as you might expect with their returning talent, are off to a strong start in prep basketball.
“We’re satisfied with the way things are going,” Mountaineer coach Skip Brock said Thursday. “However, we have a lot of room for improvement.
“But, again, I’ve been very happy with the way our players have responded against a strong schedule,” Brock said. “Our philosophy is to play a difficult schedule. Hopefully, it will help prepare us for upcoming challenges. We want to continue improving.
“We’re on track. There are areas in which we have to improve if we want to challenge for Big 8 Conference and district championships.”
That tough schedule continues tonight, Brock said, as Mount Vernon visits fellow Class 3 Clever for a nonconference test. The junior varsity game tips off at 6 p.m.
“Clever is outstanding. I believe they are 14-2 and ranked in Class 3,” Brock said. “Every game is a big game. They (the Bluejays) are in our district. Plus, it’s homecoming. It will be a challenge.”
The Mountaineers, 13-4 overall, returned four players with starting experience — 5-foot-9 senior Skylar Phillips, 6-4 senior Zane Phillips (Skylar’s cousin), 6-0 senior Shane Williams and 6-4 sophomore Chandler Myers.
Luke Call, a 6-0 sophomore, has replaced graduated stalwart Kaden Jones — now at Central Methodist — in the usual lineup. Call was the sixth man in 2011-12.
Completing the top nine are 6-0 junior Joey Curl, 6-4 junior Grayson Ketron, 6-1 sophomore Braden Adams and 5-10 freshman Jacob LaSalle.
Brock said that five more players usually dress out for a tournament. They are 5-10 sophomores Ezra Emerson, Tripper Jensen and Daniel Redfearn; 5-9 freshman Jordan Walters and 6-2 freshman Trace Williams (Shane’s brother).
Myers is averaging 18.1 points, Shane Williams 13.4, Zane Phillips 11.2 and Call 9.3. Myers is averaging 7.3 rebounds and Williams and Zane Phillips about five apiece. Williams also is averaging 5.3 assists.
Mount Vernon hiked its Big 8 record to 4-0 by beating visiting Aurora 73-53 Tuesday night behind Myers’ 24 points and Williams’ 20.
The challenges for Mount Vernon, which has lost to Nixa, Webb City, Waynesville and Ozark, will continue for sure next week with the Nixa Tournament. Third-seeded Mount Vernon will face Willard at 6 p.m. on Thursday in the first round.
“Eugene is seeded eighth,” Brock said of the Nixa field. “They are something like 11-2.”
Brock, who’s assisted by Mike Ray and Jim Kleine, is in his 11th season at Mount Vernon after an earlier stint of seven years with the Mountaineers. There were seven years at Camdenton between Mount Vernon.
Brock, a 1977 graduate of Joplin Parkwood High School, has degrees from Missouri Southern and Missouri State. He’s in his 30th year overall as a high school coach.
Brock said there were several reasons why he’s appreciative of the current Mountaineers.
“I love the way the seniors have led the way. I love the way our young guys follow those seniors,” Brock said.
“I also love the balance of our team,” he added with a laugh. :That doesn’t hurt at all.”
The 2011-12 edition finished 24-7 overall, shared the Big 8 title with Carl Junction and Seneca and placed fourth in Class 3.
“Yeah, we beat Carl Junction, Carl Junction beat Seneca and Seneca beat us,” the competitive Brock said.
Those Mountaineers lost to eventual champion Charleston and Lutheran North in Mizzou Arena at Columbia.
“That’s one of the toughest losses I’ve had to endure,” Brock said of the 58-56 semifinal loss to Charleston.