Hoops Preview: Towns County Indians
The Indians are just a couple of seasons removed now from their first-ever state championship. Despite losing a huge chunk of those players on that 2020-21 squad, last year’s group managed to hold a #2 ranking at one point, win 20 games, and play in the Elite 8. Once again Towns County takes a hit by losing another 1,000-point scorer and two All-Region players. Nevertheless, the expectations for this program have now become to win and play deep into March.
HEAD COACH: Brian Hunnicutt (2nd Season)
2021-22 RECORD: 20-8, Region 8-A Public Runner-Up, 1A Elite 8, #2 State Ranking
RETURNING STARTERS: 3. Zane Floyd (JR), Connor Chastain (JR), Tanner Cunningham (JR)
KEY DEPARTURES: Collin Crowder (25 PPG, All-State, All-Region), Kyle Oakes (All-Region), Cabe Poston. “Crowder had the best offensive season in Towns County history, and Oakes was a defensive superstar who could do everything,” adds Hunnicutt. “Cabe was the heart and soul of our team’s identity. He led as a captain. All three of these seniors brought experience from the State Championship team and helped lead Towns to another 20-win season and Elite Eight appearance.”
KEY PLAYERS: Floyd (Honorable Mention All Region last year and 2nd-leading scorer), Chastain, Cunningham. “Those guys bring veteran leadership and stellar play,” says coach Brian Hunnicutt. “Layne Rouse and Grant Ingram are two returning seniors who are captains and will greatly help the young team on the floor. They are expected to have breakout seasons. Junior Gage Rogers scored over 20 ppg last year for the JV team and saw varsity action. He has a chance to make himself known in Region 8-A.”
OFFENSE: Towns runs a motion style offense that features elements of the Princeton Offense, mostly played at a half-court pace, with a premium on quality shots and limited turnovers.
STRENGTHS: “This year’s team is young, but talented,” says Hunnicutt. “Towns has the potential to be a much better shooting team this year, while continuing the tradition of being a stingy defensive team. This is a scrappy group that should only improve as the season progresses. Several players are unknown to Towns’ opponents because of the success of the past two veteran groups from Towns County. However, there is a strong talent base that have waited their turn to contribute to the program. The group features two outstanding senior captains and a group of six juniors who have played together since rec ball. The team plays unselfish ball and cares only about continuing the recent success of Towns County Boys Basketball.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGES: “The loss of seniors who had won a State Championship and made it to the Elite Eight will be a major loss to the program, not to mention the offensive and defensive production,” says Hunnicutt. “Furthermore, the team has been placed in a new region that features last year’s State Runner-Up in Warren County. The closest region opponent is two and a half hours away and the furthest opponent is nearly fours away, so there will be many long region road trips for the Indians. The region is one of, if not the, toughest region in Class A DII.”
Point blank, the Indians might not have the household names that most outside of Hiawassee know…yet. But that will change. Chastain, Floyd, and Cunningham will be relied upon early and often, but the promise of Gage Rogers is intriguing. Towns County will play its brand of ball, making teams earn every shot. And the Indians will turn that into offense.
“Towns County has advanced to the state playoffs for three years in a row, and has been a top-10 team in Class A,” says Hunnicutt. “The 2022-23 Indians will look to advance to the state playoffs for a fourth consecutive year and continue to be a challenger for the Region Championship.”