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JCHS basketball team gains experience in summer camp

The Johnson County High School Boys Basketball team took part in the first of a series of summer camps this year, playing last week at King University in Bristol. Facing a varied mixture of six local teams, the Longhorns did very well for themselves, winning five and losing the sixth by just a couple points. Led by Coaches David Arnold and Trent Snyder, this early camp focused more on the younger Junior Varsity players but also incorporated many of the incoming freshmen, which have been the topic of much anticipation for the past two years.
Having gone largely undefeated throughout their middle school careers, players like Nathan Arnold, Bud Icenhour, and Gage Hampton are almost certainly going to play a prominent role for the JV next season and may even have an impact on the varsity level. “They played well,” said Coach David Arnold. “We’re really excited about that group coming in, especially Bud and Nate. The first game those two alone had 16 points apiece. Against David Crockett they had double figures. Working with the older kids, they meshed really well with our guys. We were missing a couple of the other eighth graders because some of them had church camps and some were on vacation but all of those others like Gage Hampton played very well, too. It’s good and we’re expecting a lot out of that group. We think they can play and they have shown they can play. They’ve got to learn to defend better. Like any group they have to learn coming in as they move up in age as a group it gets harder to defend, but we’re excited.”
As Arnold pointed out, the first two opponents in the three-day camp included larger schools like David Crockett. Remarkably the Pioneers ended up being Johnson County’s only loss, and that was after leading most of the game by 10 to 15 points. Many of the other games were complete blowouts, with the Longhorns trampling Sullivan North and Clintwood, Virginia by nearly 30 points each. There were a few surprisingly close calls, including a narrow four point victory over the Unicoi County Blue Devils during the camp’s second night and an even closer match up against the Providence Academy Black Knights that finished out with the Longhorns on top 41-39.
Many times throughout that particular game the Black Knights were able to bounce back and even take the lead but Johnson County kept fighting and were ultimately saved by a huge performance from sophomore Austin Houser who dominated at the post position. Houser was among a group of four sophomores on the team, all of which played a big part in Johnson County’s overall success.
“Austin Houser had a fantastic camp,” said Coach Arnold. “He really led the team every game and just had a great, great camp. We’re really looking to see what he can do at the varsity level too. Dalton Eller had a good camp, so did Daniel Cunningham and Spencer Stanley. We were very pleased with the sophomores. It was a good camp for us.”
The Providence game was also a good demonstration of how much effort and determination the team put into their wins. There were several moments of intense action where the ball turned over repeatedly through steals and forced shots. Although summer games are never intended to be as serious as the regular season, the Longhorns very clearly took the camp seriously.
“I was very happy with it,” Arnold said. “I thought the kids played very hard. They were playing to win. We wanted to come into the camps this summer with the attitude that we’re going out there to win just like we do in a regular season game just to set the tone for what we want in the future. We had new kids in there from the middle school, which really helped. Coach Atwood was pleased. We saw a lot of good things. We also saw a lot of things we need to work on but that’s what you go to camp for. Overall when you win five games and you lose one that’s a pretty good camp for us.”