A late start to the boys basketball season is nothing new at Webb City.

With the football team heading to the Class 4 state championship game later this week, Webb City basketball coach Jason Horn and his staff are once again patiently waiting for a large number of multi-sport athletes to hit the hardwood.

“This is my fourth year, so we’ve figured it out,” Horn said. “We’ve had a good plan on how to attack the early-season practices. We’re not putting too much in without our full roster. And we know it will take the football guys some time to get into basketball shape.”

Once football season wraps up, Horn expects 11 players with prior varsity experience to suit up for the Cardinals. And with a solid core returning, the expectations will be high inside the Cardinal Dome.

“We have a lot of experience back,” Horn said. “And we have 11 guys who could get minutes. If we can stay healthy, and if everyone comes in ready to work (after football season), I think we have a chance to be pretty solid. I’m pretty excited about what could be if it all comes together for us.”

Horn expects seniors Terrell Kabala, Tanner Rogers and Colton McKee to be key performers.

A 6-foot-1 senior point guard who has signed with Arkansas-Fort Smith, Kabala has earned first-team all-conference and all-district recognition during his prep career. Kabala, who has been a varsity starter since his freshman season, averaged 14 points per game last year.

“Terrell has put in a lot of hours in the gym, and we’re going to lean on him,” Horn said, noting Kabala is one of the top players in Southwest Missouri.

A pair of guards, the 6-1 Rogers and the 6-2 McKee gained plenty of time on the court last year. Rogers made 39 3-pointers last year.

In addition to the three seniors, Webb City will rely heavily on a large junior class, with Nickhai Howard, Gary Clinton, Jaystin Smith, Mekhi Garrard, Luke Brumit and Grant Goltra all expected to contribute nicely.

A 5-11 combo guard who has been honing his skills in practice, Howard scored seven points per game last year.

“Nickhai Howard has been great in practice for us,” Horn said. “He’s a guy that can score the ball. He’s a guy who will have an expanded role for us.”

Clinton (6-4), Smith (6-3), Brumit (6-4) and Goltra (6-4) are forwards who can provide an inside presence, while Garrard (6-0) is another guard.

Sophomore shooting guard Cohl Vaden (5-8) gained varsity experience as a freshman and should have an expanded role this winter. Vaden is another threat from outside the 3-point arc.

Other players competing for varsity playing time are junior guards Carter Gilchrist and Trenton Hayes and sophomores Isaiah Brisco, Kaden Turner, Max Higginbotham, Baylor Dickinson and Dupree Jackson.

Webb City captured a district championship and went 16-10 last season. With a solid core returning, the Cardinals have the goals set high again this winter.

Four days after the football team plays for a state championship, the Cardinals will begin the basketball season on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at Lamar.

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