By Paul Hines
MT. VERNON —
Scott Gamber's Rams basketball team will run a gauntlet of games starting Monday in the Herrin Pyramid Plus Tournament.
Mt. Vernon opens the season Monday against South Seven Conference foe Marion at 7 p.m. The two teams matched up four times last year with the schools splitting the victories.
“There's more familiarity between the two of us probably than any of the other teams in the tournament,” Mt. Vernon coach Scott Gamber said. “But still without seeing them play this year you don't know what changes they've made. Obviously, personnel-wise they've made quite a few changes.”
Mt. Vernon also faces Herrin (5:30 p.m. Tuesday), Salem (7 p.m. Wednesday), Collinsville (7 p.m. Friday) and St. Louis Soldan (7 p.m. Saturday). The tournament sees the Rams playing five games in six days with a break in action Thursday for Thanksgiving Day.
“I'm expecting several different styles,” Gamber said. “Every year you don't know fully what to expect until you get to see them. I think some of the teams will always play pretty close to the same.”
Marion graduated several players but returns a cluster of key players as well. Brant Hill was a consistent starter a season ago and presents a matchup difficulty for the Rams. Hill brings size to court at 6-3 combined with athleticism.
“He's a good player because he's got enough size to where he can hurt you getting to the rim, but he's also a good perimeter shooter,” Gamber said.
Carsen Cash is also back as a 6-5 player in the post along with guard Colton Carter. The Wildcats are also expected to get a boost from Robby Dosier, who played at Carbondale last season. Another transfer is a point guard from Edwardsville.
“Those two players are going to make them a lot better on top of the fact that they bring back their leading scorer in Brant Hill,” Gamber said. “They have a really nice kid in Carsen Cash, who I think is going to have a great senior season.”
Marion coach Shane Hawkins enters his second season, and Gamber said the Wildcats will be more experienced running his system compared to a season ago.
“Shane did a great job of getting those guys to play hard, do the right thing, but it's still just one year in. He couldn't do all the things he wanted to. And this year I expect them to be that much better in his system.”
The undersized Rams will be tested later in the week against Collinsville. The Kahoks return a pair of formidable post players in Emondre Rickman (6-7) and Sean Davis (6-6).
“Collinsville I'm anticipating being a team that maybe is going to try to really get it inside and maybe more of a power-type offense,” Gamber said.