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Playing as a team the key for Carson

Darrell Moody
dmoody@nevadaappeal.com

When Carson High’s boys basketball team tips off its season tonight against South Tahoe in the opening round of the annual Capital City Classic, there will be a new point guard leading the team.

The new point guard, at least right now, is expected to be sophomore Matt Nolan, who replaces Andrew Johnson, who defected to Hug High School. Nolan was a standout on the JV squad last year, and he’ll make the big jump to varsity which is what Johnson did the previous year.

“He (Nolan) is the early favorite,” coach Bruce Barnes said. “In our offense, everybody has to be able to handle the ball. Matt has a lot of strength. He played quarterback on the JV football team. He’s been waiting for this opportunity. We weren’t expecting that it would happen this quickly.”

“Obviously as far as bringing the ball up the floor it takes away one of our focal points,” senior forward-guard Brian Barnes said. “We have a well-rounded team, and we play well together as a group. We have no shooting stars. We mesh really well.”

Barnes, in fact, may be the recipient of added pressure from opposing defenses in Johnson’s absence. He is the Senators’ most recognizable player, and is ready to close out his high school career with a bang.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” the younger Barnes said. “Obviously it’s a compliment when coaches say they have to stop me to stop us. In a way there is more pressure because it’s my senior season. This year I’ve gotten better; improved a lot over the summer. I’m healthy, and I was able to get in the weight room and I put on 10 or 15 pounds.”

Barnes, according to his dad, probably came back too early last year after undergoing back surgery following his sophomore season.

Barnes and Johnson were the top scorers last year, but coach Barnes expects scoring to come from other places.

“In the summer, we had a lot of guys step up into that role and become scorers,” the veteran Carson coach said. “We need multiple guys to be able to score. We can’t count on one guy to go for 25 a game.”

If Nolan needs a blow or doesn’t cut it at the point, Barnes could slide over from his shooting guard spot.

Besides Barnes, forward-center Matt Cooper, guard Trey Jensen, forward Tyler Collins and forward Chris Steele all return. Newcomers this year are center Danny Gall, forward-center Ty Keefer, forward-center Tim Dotson, guard-forward Chance Quilling and guards Carlos Carrillo and Drew Moreland.

The Senators have seven football players on their roster, and five of those are seniors.

“The seniors are a great group of kids,” Barnes said. “They are all 4.0 students. They also have good character, and they showed that during the football season.”

Barnes said that versatility is one of the strengths of the team this year. He has several players that are able to play multiple positions, and that’s a bonus for any coach.

“I can play Keefer and Steele at the 3, 4 and 5 spots,” coach Barnes said. “I can play Cooper at the 4 and 5.

“Coop will probably play three or four minutes at a time. Coop will battle. We have a lot of guys that can play the 4 or 5, and we’ll use a lot of people there.”

The veteran coach said he is concerned about his team’s inside play, doesn’t quite know how his rotation will evolve and his team’s defense. The remark about the rotation may be strange, but because of football playoffs, Barnes didn’t have his entire team until about 10 days ago.

Barnes also hinted he may not play as much man-to-man as he has in the past. Fans could see a little more zone than in the past because the Senators aren’t blessed with a lot of quickness.

“We may not run and jump (on defense) as we have in the past,” coach Barnes said. “I try to do what we can based on the personnel we have.”

Barnes knows that this team will have to scrap and play good team defense to succeed. He is used to that. Carson has always been known for its scrappiness on defense, so this year is like any other in that respect.