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Rebels’ Diamond outshines hoops peers, earns All-NET top honors

Douglas Fritz • Mar 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

Sullivan South had multiple weapons that made its team rise above the crowd this season, and among that mix was a player who was a cut above.

Ben Diamond was chosen Thursday as the All-Northeast Tennessee basketball player of the year by the Kingsport Times News and Johnson City Press.

He edged his own teammate, Cole Layne, and University High’s Kaleb Meredith for the honor.

Joining Diamond, Layne and Meredith on the first team were Sullivan East’s Dylan Bartley, Elizabethton’s Nico Ashley and Science Hill’s Jake Matherne.

Heading the second team was Dobyns-Bennett’s Abiah Releford. He was joined by Tennessee High’s Nolan Wishon, Hampton’s Jordan Bentley, Science Hill’s Jordan McLoyd, and Daniel Boone’s Cade Norris.

Defensive player of the year honors went to David Crockett’s Dawson Wagner while Unicoi County’s Lucas Slagle was the pick as the most promising underclassman.

The coach of the year was gathered in by Sullivan South’s Michael McMeans. He led the Rebels to their first state tournament berth in school history. Also considered for the coaching honor was Hampton’s Ned Smith.

BEN DIAMOND

5-10, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 18.5 points, 4.0 assists

There were times when Diamond simply took the game over. His combination of quickness, shooting, and rim-seeking ability made him a nightmare for opposing defenses.

KALEB MEREDITH

6-1, junior, guard

Key per-game stats: 25 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 steals

Meredith had his hands all over the Buccaneers’ success. He had help, but when he elevated his play to its highest level, it made UH a serious threat to reach the Class A state tournament.

COLE LAYNE

5-10, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 18.5 points, 5.0 rebounds

Layne was a finder. He looked for places to attack the defense and aggressively made it pay for any weaknesses.

DYLAN BARTLEY

6-2, sophomore, guard

Key per-game stats: 23.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists

His statistics tell the story. He was arguably the area’s most determined player to get to the rim.

NICO ASHLEY

6-4, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 21.8 points

Playing the game above the rim set Ashley apart from the crowd. Not only did he have a feathery soft jump shot, but he also was a shot-blocking defensive menace.

JAKE MATHERNE

6-6, senior, post

Key per-game stats: 10.5 points, 7.5 rebounds

Power in the paint. Matherne’s spinning left-handed baby hook was, at times, unstoppable. His used his strength and size to effectively complement Science Hill’s guard depth.

ABIAH RELEFORD

6-1, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 17.5 points

Releford was one of those players who could change the game. When things were clicking for him on the perimeter, it turned the Indians into a threat to beat any team in the eastern part of the state.

NOLAN WISHON

6-7, senior, post

Key per-game stats: 12.3 points, 12.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists

Brute force was Wishon’s calling card. Teams had to commit to stopping him, which made the Vikings difficult to defend.

JORDAN BENTLEY

6-5, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 13.2 points

The Bulldogs relied on his steady play to maintain their balance, and Bentley continued his standout ways as Hampton reached the Class A state tournament.

JORDAN McLOYD

5-11, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 10.4 points

Averaging double figures on a team with the Hilltoppers’ depth was no easy task, but McLoyd did that and more. There were multiple times where he sparked runs at critical moments of tight games.

CADE NORRIS

6-2, senior, guard

Key per-game stats: 14.6 points

Norris was the Trailblazers’ most effective overall player, providing not only the high-level scoring punch but also pounding the glass and playing top-level defense.

DAWSON WAGNER

6-0, sophomore, guard

Key per-game stats: 14.0 points, 3.9 assists, 4.0 steals

The numbers tell the story of a player who does more than defense, but his calling card was an area-best four thefts per game.

LUCAS SLAGLE

6-4, freshman, post

Key per-game stats: 11.5 points, 12.5 rebounds

When a player scores 11.5 points per game and it doesn’t rise to the level of his rebounding average, you have a true glass cleaner. Slagle has an overall game that could make him a player of the year threat in years to come.

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