Coach Joe Pitt said Devin Booker, a 3-year starter, has to be the team's go-to-guy.
Booker, a 6-8, 225-pound power forward, returns to lead the Yellow Jackets. He already has signed his letter of intent to play college basketball at Clemson University, joining his brother Trevor.
Booker averaged 22.1 points, 14.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks last year. He was recently voted as one of the top five players in the state.
But for the Jackets to have a successful year they'll need a team effort. The starting lineup has not been set, but Brandon Stapelton (jr.), Mike Mebane (jr.), Desmond Floyd (so.), Kevin Means (sr.), Matt Glenn (sr.) and Joe Beatty (so.) will contribute.
Last year, the Jackets went 17-8 overall, finishing 9-5 and third in the region. Union County should improve on that, with preseason polls picking it to win Region III-3A as the No. 9 team in Class 3A.
“The region is competitive from top to bottom,” said Pitt. “I feel OK going into the season. We need to develop some depth.
“The inside game is our strength. Our weakness is handing the ball. We must cut down on turnovers.”
Union County boys will participate in the Impact Sports Tipoff at Spartanburg Christian Academy on Dec. 24-26.
The Jackets open with Spartanburg Christian at 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Other games are: Wren-Broome, Spartanburg Day-Laurens, Irmo-Riverside.
LADY YELLOW JACKETS
UCHS' girls' team looks to improve this year and it will take a team effort.
“Each player has the ability to be the go-to-player,” said coach Yoneko Washington. “In order to be successful it will take everyone. We are only as strong as our weakest link.”
Returning starters for the Lady Yellow Jackets are: seniors Rudy Hunter and Britni Ward and junior Jessica Hall. Senior Jade Collins also will start, plus junior Sharniece Stewart or freshman Reanna Tucker.
“This is my possible group of starters, but it is subject to change,” said Washington. “The ladies are really competing for positions.”
Others who will contribute are: Shakeyla Beaty (jr.), Jocelyn Bell (sr.), Janeka Brannon (jr.), Andrea Eison (fr.), Kristin Giles (8th), Chastene McKale Hardy (fr.) and Whitney Smith (sr.).
“I look for my entire team to contribute this year,” said Washington. “Everyone has been working hard and my newcomers have been very impressive.”
The group will look to improve on last year's 5-16 overall and seventh place (2-12) region record.
A new Region III-3A looks tough this year with Union County picked to finish fifth out of six teams. Riverside could be the team to beat.
“We should have a very competitive region,” said Washington. “All teams are capable of being No. 1 in our region.”
That's got Washington excited about the new year.
“I feel very confident that we will definitely show improvement,” she said. “The ladies are working extremely hard and have been very impressive thus far. We still have much to learn, but we have progressed tremendously. I am excited about this season and have high expectations.”
The Jackets have several things going for them, including athleticism, conditioning, defensive pressure and quickness. Shooting is getting better.
UCHS looks to work on composure and discipline.
Washington asked that the fans support the team. They should see a much improved product.
The girls' team hosts Whitmire on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in its final preseason tuneup.
2008-09 Union County Basketball Schedule
Dec. 2: at Broome, 6
Dec. 5: Gaffney, 6
Dec. 9: Broome, 6
Dec. 12: at Chesnee, 6
Dec. 16: at Woodruff, 6
Dec. 19: Chesnee, 6
Dec. 20-23: at Richland NE (Boys)
Dec. 29-30: at Spartanburg (Girls)
Jan. 6: Woodruff, 6
Jan. 9: Riverside, 6
Jan. 13: at Gaffney, 6
Jan. 16: Blue Ridge, 6
Jan. 20: at Chapman, 6
Jan. 23: at Clinton, 6
Jan. 27: Greer, 6
Jan. 30: at Riverside, 6
Feb. 3: at Blue Ridge, 6
Feb. 6: Chapman, 6
Feb. 10: Clinton, 6
Feb. 12: at Greer, 6