It's been quite some time since fans of the Mexico varsity boys basketball team went to a game and didn't wonder if Jasean White was going to somehow be able to break away from the rest of the field and find himself alone, just he and the basketball, heading full steam toward an empty net.
It's been just as long since those same loyal Bulldogs supporters came out that they did so without knowing Jai Lawson was going to hold this squad down and see it through the rough times so it could find its path to brighter ways and better days. Now, you might say head coach Darren Pappas and assistant coaches Dion Nunnelly and Brandon Schafer are fortunate that the 2018-19 version of this team is only losing those two players, but it's not.
When you consider this program is also graduating forward Cole Whalen and guard Taylor Bledsoe, what comes next is going to be incredibly new from the bottom of the roster to the very top.
"Jai was a two year starter, Jasean, Taylor, and Cole all were on varsity last year but played limited minutes. Each player brought different aspects to the team that will be missed," said Pappas. "Jai was a two time All-Conference performer and an All-District selection this season. Cole lead our team in rebounds this season. Jasean was a good on the ball defender who is extremely athletic. Taylor improved greatly over the season despite having an ankle injury that caused him to miss six games."
Despite that mid-year infirmity for Bledsoe, the Bulldogs finished with a record of 7-16 overall, 2-8 North Central Missouri Conference. As for next seasons seniors, that group will include forward Zach Watkins guards Isaiah Cockrell and Keyon Mahaney, who suffered an ankle injury last year.
"We have a young core group of guys that are returning next season in Isaiah Reams, Zach Watkins, Ty Prince, Michael White, Raef Yager, Matt Huemann, Drew Blevins, Dante Billups and Jake Haines," said Pappas. "All these guys will be competing for varsity minutes and have a year of varsity experience. Isaiah Reams was a Second Team All-Conference performer as a true freshman."
This years postseason featured an incredibly tough draw that made Mexico the fifth seed of Class 4, District 8, where it was pitted against fourth seeded Kirskville, 13-11 overall, on Feb. 25 at Hannibal and was defeated 71-56.
"We're excited about the guys we have coming back and having a full year of varsity already under them will help," Pappas said. "We will be preparing for next season with off season workouts, camps, shootouts, and weight training throughout the end of the school year on into the month of June."