We don’t have to remind you that the South Iron Panthers won the first State Championship since 1965 last season, but we’ll go ahead and do it anyway. Champs baby!
Last season’s resume reads like this… The Panthers finished with a record of 25-4, won the AV Thanksgiving Tourney, the Park Hills Christmas Tourney, the Black River League Conference Regular Season and were Tourney Champions, District Champions and Class 1 State Champions. Hard to find any chinks in the armor there.
That being said, the Panthers are obviously coming off of an incredible and historic run, but as 19-year veteran Head Coach Dusty Dinkins would tell you.. there is still a lot of work to do. And this is one program that doesn’t shy away from hard work.
The Panthers are going through some changes though. It’s the nature of the beast in regards to High School sports, but nonetheless Dinkins’ crew had to shed some heavy hitters this year. The team lost four players (three starters) to graduation, but those talented young State Champions are plying their trade elsewhere.
Lost to Graduation:
Brock Wakefield: The 6’4 starter was a four-time All-Conference and Play of the Year, four-time All-District, four-time All-State, four-time Dream Team member, two-time Dream Team Player of the Year and two-time Big 3 Player of the Year. A loss of that caliber certainly hurts, but he is currently at The Citadel playing Basketball and Baseball, so congrats to him.
Jermarco Burse: The 6’4 starter had a huge Senior season after returning from a knee injury. Had it not been for that he would have made even bigger waves than he did. He is currently attending Southeastern Illinois College where he is playing Basketball.
Luke Lunyou: The 6’2 starter had an excellent season last year and is currently attending Missouri S&T.
Jacob Leverett: The 5’10 key contributor off the bench has decided to hang up his kicks for now and has entered the workforce.
These players will certainly be missed, but the future still looks bright for the Panthers. They return two starters and have an impressive crop of (now) Juniors and underclassmen that are advancing quickly and ready to make an impact.
DJ Prater: The 6’2 starter was a two-time All-Conference, two-time All-District and one-time All-State player in his first three years. He will be leaned upon heavily this season.
Coach Dinkins had this to say about Prater, “DJ is a returning starter that we have seen continuous improvements in his abilities. He has worked very hard at his perimeter shooting, strength and athleticism. He was an excellent defender, teammate and leader last season, and we expect those areas to be even more impactful this year. His leadership, intelligence and feel for the game are very important for our team.”
Drenin Dinkins: The 6’0 starter was a three-time All-Conference, three-time All-District, two-time All-State and three-time Dream Team player.
Here is Coach’s take: “Drenin is a returning starter that has a great feel for the game and can impact it in many ways. He has worked hard to improve his strength level and athleticism. We believe that his defense has improved to go with his exceptional rebounding ability. Drenin will attend and play basketball at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO next year.”
Champ McMurry: (6’1 starter)
“Champ has put in countless hours of working on his game and we are excited to see him step into a larger role this season. He has great athleticism and shooting ability. His defense and rebounding has improved over the off-season and we expect it to be important for our team this year. We are looking forward to Champ having an exceptional Senior year.”
Jermartez Burse: (6’0)
“Martez has a very competitive personality that we believe will help him and our team. He has improved his strength level, athleticism and skill sets. We look for him to use those talents along with the ability to be a great defender.”
Kolton Dinkins: (5’11)
“Kolton has great athleticism and a positive attitude. His work ethic is very impressive, as well as his ability to make positive plays on offense and defense. He had a great summer and we are looking for him to continue to make a positive impact this season.”
Gabe Ruble: (6’2)
“Gabe has an impressive passion in regards to basketball. That passion has resulted in a lot of work in regards to his skills and an impressive shooting touch. He has grown quite a bit since last year and has gotten stronger. We are excited to see his impacts at the Varsity level this season.”
Elye Krueger: (6’2)
“Elye is young in the sport of basketball with only 2 years of experience. However, he has made solid improvements and brings a physical presence to the interior of our defense and rebounding. His offensive ability continues to improve and we are looking forward to his progression. Elye is very intelligent and has a wonderful attitude, so we are very excited that he has chosen to be an important part of the South Iron Basketball team.”
Karl Slusher: (5’10)
“Karl has been an important part of our team ever since elementary school where he hit the game winning shot in the BRL Tournament Championship! He works extremely hard and isn’t afraid of a challenge. We enjoy his fearlessness and willingness to do whatever is needed for our team to be the best it can be.”
Will Malone (6’0), Marquis Burse (5’10), Hunter Huff (6’2), Ray Morrissey (5’ 8) & Sawyer Huff (6’1)
“These four Sophomores and one Freshman are working hard to improve their skill sets, strength level and knowledge of the game. They each have unique abilities that we are hoping they continue to improve upon to be impactful players this season. They will no doubt be very important to our team’s success this season!”
That is your full South Iron Varsity and Junior Varsity rosters this season. Here are Coach Dinkins’ thoughts on each squad and his expectations.
In regards to the Varsity team he stated, “We are expecting this year’s team to compete at a high level. We have several talented players that are working hard to come together as a team. We are excited about our team and the opportunities this season will bring. Our aspirations are to continually improve throughout the season and hopefully be in a position to make another deep, postseason run!”
As for the JV squad, he had this to say, “We have a good group of Freshman and Sophomores that work hard daily and are focused on improving and being great teammates! We are excited about their potential and look forward to seeing these young players progress towards the Varsity level.”
It sounds like blue skies and green pastures for the South Iron program as a whole. If anyone is a good judge of talent, it’s Coach Dinkins, so readers should feel a strong sense of comfort in his words. That being said, defending a State Championship is no easy task, and opponents are likely going to be out for blood. But if any group can weather the storm it’s likely these gritty and talented Panthers out of Annapolis.
Good luck Panthers!