By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
Webb City coach Landon Cornish said Tuesday the Cardinals possess the ingredients to field a formidable boys basketball team by postseason time.
“We aren’t in basketball shape yet,” Cornish said. “”But the players are working hard on conditioning. We’re getting there. After Christmas, we’ll be ready to go.”
Opposing coaches in southwest Missouri might suggest that Cornish really isn’t climbing out very far on the proverbial limb.
The Class 4 Cardinals have four senior starters from a team that finished 21-8 overall and runner-up at 5-2 in the Central Ozark Conference Large Division. Nixa handed the Cardinals their final two losses — in the league and in the first round of the Class 5 playoffs.
“Our probable fifth starter started some games last season and we have a sixth senior letterman,” Cornish said. “We will be athletic with outstanding team speed.”
The Cardinals are scheduled to open their season at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Rogers (Ark.) Arvest Hoopfest against Fort Smith Southside.
The returning starters are 5-foot-9 point guard Phoenix Johnson, 6-0 Jalen Vaden, 6-3 Nate Brown and 6-3 Kohl Slaughter.
Plus, 6-5 John Roderique, who picked up starting experience last season, is expected to join those four in Thursday’s lineup.
Also, Cornish considers 6-3 Logan Williams a starter.
“Logan will play early and often,” Cornish said. “He’s a very important piece of our team. We’ll try to rotate him in the lineup to keep everyone (the wings) fresh.”
Completing the current varsity roster are senior Alec Basye (6-3) and juniors Clay Gardner (6-0), Jordan Green (6-1), Zach Hallacy (6-0) and Trey Parra (5-9).
Hallacy, because of a knee injury, isn’t expected to play until after Christmas, Cornish said.
“We are farther along, as a group, compared to last season,” Cornish said. “The players are more familiar with my system and expectations.
“The maturity of the players — predominantly seniors —is another strength,” Cornish said. “We were able to build some confidence last season.
“Defense will be the biggest key,” Cornish said. “We’ll try to press as much as we can. We want to get up and down the floor.”
Johnson earned honorable mention all-league in 2011-12 with averages of 14 points, six assists and three steals. Slaughter, who averaged 12 points and seven rebounds, joined Johnson as an all-district selection. Brown averaged eight points and nine boards.
Cornish, a graduate of Lockwood High School (2004) and Missouri State, is in his second season with the Cardinals. He’s assisted by Jeremy Butler and Ryan McFarland.
Hoopfest notes: Missouri teams Mount Vernon and Waynesville also are in the event at Heritage. Waynesville faces Pea Ridge at 4 p.m. and Mount Vernon tackles Rogers at 7. Heritage and Hot Springs clash at 8:30 to finish the first round. ... Cornish said Southside is 2-3. “Southside is coming off a fifth-place finish in the Van Buren Tournament. They will be improved because of football players returning. They’ve added a couple of athletes.”