After 28 years of coaching high school basketball, not much surprises Irmo coach Tim Whipple. But when he saw that his Yellow Jackets were ranked ninth in the Class 4A preseason poll, he questioned the merit.
Irmo has five returning lettermen from an 18-7 team and likely will start the season without a starter more than 6-feet tall.
"Realistically, we have too many things to overcome to be ranked that high, at least at the beginning of the year," Whipple said. "We literally will start five guards that are all about 5-11 or 6-0. We have very little depth, so we have to be cautious in how we play because we can't afford to have anyone in foul trouble."
Robbie Brunson is the main cog missing from last year. He was a 6-5 post player who allowed the Yellow Jackets to match up with most teams.
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The hopes now lie with promising point guard Jordan Roper and twin juniors Jeremy and Josh Clinkscales. Roper is one of the top-ranked players for the 2012 class and he played a huge role last year. His development in the offseason gives Whipple hope that his team can overcome not having much of an inside presence.
"Jordan has all the tools and it's our job to refine them to make him a complete player," Whipple said. "It's a step-by-step process. We have taken him each year and tried to work on something that takes him from a good player to a great player. Usually good things happen when he has the ball in his hands."
The Clinkscales brothers have the mentality to fight and survive inside but they will need as much help as they can get. Junior David Frazier and senior John Ranley probably will round out the starting five with 6-5 Stephen Rogers being counted on to provide minutes in the paint.
The Yellow Jackets hope the lack of size eventually can make other teams try and match what they do. Whipple would like to press and run, but a lack of depth could hinder that.
"We want to create a situation where we have more depth later in the year," Whipple said. "Right now, it's hard for us to play the way we want to, which is rely on our quickness and run the floor. We want to press more and play scramble basketball, but that probably will not happen unless we build depth."
Irmo tied for second in Region 5-4A with Richland Northeast and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs last season. Lexington won the region and Whipple feels they are the odds-on favorite to win it again. But the region as a whole has most of its better players back, so Whipple expects it to be more competitive than last year.
"As a whole, the region should be improved," Whipple said. "I expect us to be fun to watch. I don't know how we will finish as far as wins and losses are considered but this is a fun bunch to be around and they will be competitive."