RIPLEY - Optimism echoes around the Ripley Health Center as the 2013-14 version of Viking Basketball prepares to kickoff their season December 10 at Winfield for a Mountain State Athletic Conference matchup. 

The squad looks to improve on a (7-16 overall, 2-12 MSAC, 2-9 home, 5-7 away) record from last season. While the team lost its second leading scorer Casy Smith (14.0), rebounding leader Chuck Sleboda (6.0) and assist and steals leader in point guard Jacob Haynes (4.3 and 2.4) to graduation, Ripley will lean on seniors Kade Harrison and Drew Harpold to lead a relatively young group of players.

Harrison, a Special Honorable Mention MSAC selection and Honorable Mention Class AAA All State recipient, led the Vikings in scoring (16.5), blocked shots (1.7) and 3-point efficiency (40 %), will certainly be the leader in 2013-14.
Harrison holds Ripley’s career and single season blocked shot record and is one of Ripley High’s most electrifying athletes in recent years.
Fellow senior Drew Harpold (6.2 ppg 4.0 rebounds) will undoubtedly be looking for his shot more often this season as the team needs some scoring output from the talented wing man.

“Drew is a very important part of our team and we will need production from him. I think he is ready to step into that role and be a leader for us,” said Coach Craig Harmon.

Beyond the big two, the Vikings will lean on post-man Luke Layhew. The 6-foot-6 Layhew is expected to take on a larger role this season. The sophomore looks much improved in workouts and has a high ceiling for what he can do as a prep player. Layhew averaged (2.0 ppg and 2.4 rebounds) in a limited role as a frosh. Look for Layhew to step out this season and impress. Justin McKown will likely earn a starting position at guard and has a reputation as a scrappy defender, which has caught the eyes of his coaches.

“You don’t have to be a scoring champ to get on the floor. McKown is earning playing time with his willingness to defend and execute the game plan on offense.

Ripley will employ a motion style offense that will allow any player on any given night with a hot hand to get the ball. Freshman Jamison Hunt will handle point guard duties for the Vikings. Hunt led his middle school team to an MVAC title last season for RpMS coach Mark Wayne. Hunt, whose Father is Assistant Coach Steve Hunt has a high basketball IQ and understands the intricacies of the offense.

“I realize that we have a freshman point guard and I realize that our opponents know that too. I have faith in Jamison to make good decisions with the basketball,” said Harmon now in his 22nd year overall in two stints as the Viking skipper.

Freshman Chase Johnson has opened eyes in early workouts. The 6-foot-4 post player will likely pose a formidable duo in the paint with Layhew in the coming seasons of Viking hoops.

Ravenswood transfer Jacob Barr is athletic and moves well with the ball and can drive to the bucket, an element that Ripley was weak on last season. He will see playing time for the blue and white.
While the Viking roster wasn’t set as of this preview, Dylan Hall, senior Jared Wendell and Morgan Graves are fighting for playing time as well.
“If we can limit turnovers and improve our rebounding, we can be successful. I believe we can score points,” said Assistant Coach Steve Hunt. Tyler Hill also returns as an assistant coach this season. The Vikings’ home opener will tip-off on January 3 versus Nitro.