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PHELPS, Ky. — The Phelps Hornets will have a different head coach on their sideline for the third straight season as Brandon Ratliff has taken after at the helm after the surprising resignation by previous coach Cameron Smith on Nov. 15.

Ratliff said that early on his job has mainly been focusing on getting more players to come out for the team as the Hornets were struggling with low numbers early on in practice.

“We started out and weren’t getting very many kids at all,” coach Ratliff said. “On my first day as coach we had six kids out, then that next day we jumped up to nine, and the following day we had 11. So I’m pleased to get these guys out. We’ve got a few that haven’t played in awhile but they seem to be picking up on things quick.”

While there will be several new faces taking the court for Phelps this season, coach Ratliff says he does have some experienced players coming back this season that will help them improve on their 5-19 record a year ago.

The top returning scorer for the Hornets is junior sharp-shooter Mason Prater who averaged over 11 points per game a season ago. He drilled 64 three-pointers in only 23 games played, good for three treys a game.

“Mason can flat fill it up,” Ratliff said. “If he gets going he can come down and hit 7 or 8 threes before you even blink. He’s been huge also in us getting more kids out. He just loves to play basketball.”

Another key returner for Phelps will be senior center Landon Dotson (6’4”, 260lb). Dotson is a multi-year starter for the Hornets and turned in averages of seven points and a team best seven rebounds per game a season ago.

“I think Landon is the best post player in this region, especially defensively” Ratliff said. “I’ve thought that since he was a sophomore. He is also really a good leader and helps these younger guys a lot in practice. He and Mason both are like having coaches on the floor.”

Expected to step into the point guard position is sophomore Eric Daniel who saw action in 22 games as a freshman last season. He averaged four points per game but was second on the team in made threes with 14.

“We’re full of shooters, Eric can really shoot it,” Ratliff said. “He creates his own shot well. He’s looked really good for us and looking comfortable in his role.”

Junior Hayden Mounts is also expected to be key player for Phelps this season as he came back out for the team after not playing last season.

“He’s going to be big for us. He’s so athletic and is really good with the basketball,” coach Ratliff said. “He can do so many things offensively and will probably be our best defender. He was the one kid that we had to get out, he’s had a really good week of practice for us after being out for a year.”

Sophomore Mikey Flemings, who transferred to Phelps from Tolsia High School prior to last season and played in nine games for the Hornets, has also earned some playing time on the court this season.

Sophomore forward Gaige Runyon and guard Jacob Kender will also compete for some minutes off of the bench this season according to coach Ratliff.

“I think we are going to be better than people expect,” Ratliff said. “It’s going to take us a little bit to find our groove but the good thing is except for Landon they will all be back for another year.”

This season will be coach Ratliff’s first as a head basketball coach in high school but he was a head coach at Mullins Middle School and spent 16 seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater East Ridge. Pike Central and at Phelps under previous coach Bobby Varney.

HD Media reporter Jarrid McCormick covers sports in Mingo County.

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