Prep boys basketball: Senior trio being counted on to lead Franklin

5:28 p.m Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017 Journal-News Sports
Franklin guard Payton Knott tries to drive on Bellbrook guard Ethan Savey during their game at Bellbrook on Dec. 16, 2016. COX MEDIA FILE PHOTO

The task has become more difficult for Franklin High School boys basketball coach Brian Bales, but he’s still having quite a bit of fun.

“I’m really enjoying this group,” said Bales, starting his 11th season at the helm. “Our practices are as good as we’ve had in my time here. We don’t have everybody we thought we’d have. With that being said, we’re really excited about the guys we do have.”

The Wildcats were 18-5 and captured their sixth straight Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division championship last year, and they expected to return five guys with a lot of experience.

That number dropped to three when football injuries wiped out any chance of Ryan Montgomery and Braden White playing as seniors.

“Those are big losses,” Bales said. “Everybody knows what Ryan Montgomery can do, and I think Braden White coud’ve been close to a double-double guy for us.

“This year, we may play as many guys as we’ve played here in the past. We think we’ve got different guys who can lead us on different nights.

“We’re very proud of our culture, and I think these guys have bought into this culture. We don’t talk about championships. We talk to our guys all the time about falling in love with the process. Let’s go to work and see what happens.”

A trio of seniors — 5-foot-8 Payton Knott, 6-2 Jared Kinzer and 6-2 Cole Bundren — lead the returnees.

Knott was the SWBL Southwestern Player of the Year as a junior, averaging 11.3 points, 4.6 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game. He’ll be the primary point guard.

Kinzer will play on the wing and Bundren will be a forward after averaging 8.3 and 6.0 points per contest, respectively, last season.

“Obviously, I think Payton Knott has got to lead us,” Bales said. “I think the football year that Jared Kinzer had will help him, and Cole Bundren has really worked hard this offseason to take his game to another level.”

Seniors Jayden Fitts (6-3) and Cody Spencer (6-2) are vying for the starting post position, as is junior Brayden Hall (6-3). Kinzer might play some point guard, with sophomores Kamry Fuller (5-7) and Ryan Russell (5-11) also in that mix.

Sophomores Zack Minton (5-11 guard), Will Emrick (6-4 forward) and Braden Woods (6-2 forward) are competing for playing time as well.

“The sophomore class is very talented,” Bales said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what any of those guys can give us.”

Franklin’s style of play isn’t in question. Bales wants his team to play up-tempo, full-court basketball offensively and defensively, and he said most of the Wildcats are 3-point threats.

“Our guys are going to compete,” Bales said. “We’re going to really try to put our hat on the defensive end. Our style will be fast and I’m open to playing 10, 11 guys, whatever we’ve got to play to get the job done.”

He believes the SWBL Southwestern race will be very competitive, noting that Oakwood — while dealing with some injuries in the preseason — has the most returning talent.

Franklin will open the season against Miami Valley on Dec. 1 in the Athletes in Action Classic at Cedarville University.

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