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File / The Outlook Dadeville's PJ Eason (34) should continue to be a force for the Tigers this season.

Both the girls and the boys basketball teams for Dadeville bring back a lot from last year, but while the girls will still be underclassmen-heavy, the boys will be loaded with a group of returning seniors and juniors with a ton of experience.

Jamauri Chislom, PJ Eason, Jamarion Wilkerson and Jay Patrick are all returning starters from last year’s squad, and Tripp McKinley, who came off the bench quite a bit last season, will take up the fourth starting spot.

Eason, a center, returns for his junior season after averaging a double-double last year, and he’s starting to get attention from collegiate recruits already.

“PJ has gotten a little strong inside,” Dadeville boys coach Jesse Foster said. “I think he’ll do a better job protecting and finishing at the rim.”

Chislom will also be a big inside presence, while Wilkerson will return to run the point. Patrick and McKinley were both sharpshooters last year and Foster is expecting even more of that this season.

“Our offense is going to be a lot better,” Foster said. “We’ve done a lot of shooting drills and put a lot of shots up, and I think we’ll shoot better than we did from the perimeter last year. All our guys can score, and I think my young guys are going to do a lot of contributing too.”

Foster has only nine on the roster and he expects every one of them to get a good amount of playing time. Daquan Doss, Avonate Wilson and Phil Dowdell are all freshmen who should see time this season, and Josh Taylor will also be in the mix after suffering an injury in August that sidelined him from the entire football season.

While Foster expects the offense to be improved, the big thing that made Dadeville go last year was its defense and he said the Tigers aren’t letting up on that. They’ll play some zone but 90% of the time, they’ll be in a man defense.

“We’re going to press and get up and down the floor again,” Foster said.

And that should lead to even more offense.

While the boys return a lot of older experience, the girls also have a lot coming back but they are still young. There is only one junior, De’Asia Doss, and one senior, Skye Foster, listed on the roster. But the sophomore and even freshman classes still got a ton of playing time last year.

“We’re still a pretty young team, but I think they’re all trying to work together with each other to help the ones from last year,” Dadeville girls coach Pam Holloway said. “I want them to just become more independent and be able to make decisions.”

Holloway said her biggest hope for the Tigers is for them to become more well-rounded and play as a team. She doesn’t want to have only one person who will lead the team but be a balanced threat offensively.

“We have a lot of players that could actually get better as we progress and step up,” Holloway said. “I have a couple that could progress as the season goes to be really good outside shooters. I would like to see a lot of points coming off of forcing turnovers. Defensively, I want to pressure teams a lot better and be able to get a lot of points that way.”

Defense has always been a strong point of emphasis for Holloway’s team and that’s not going to change this season, but she said she sees the Tigers have potential to be a really strong offensive team as well.

The season for both the boys and the girls begins Monday at Elmore County, and the Tigers are just excited to hit the court to see where they could stand up against the competition.

“We’re ready to get started and see what kind of improvements we really need to work on,” Holloway said. “They really need to see what it’s going to be like from a real game situation because the things I’m trying to show them in practice, they can’t see it until it’s a real game experience. But I’m excited; I think we’ve started out on a positive note.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.