Fort Mill senior Keyan Mims drives past a teammate during a recent practice. Mims should be a key player in the success for the Jackets this season.

FORT MILL – Picked to finish fourth in Region 3-5A, the Fort Mill Yellow Jackets have a lot to prove this year and a lot of new faces to do it with.

                Coming off a 20-6 record last year and a first-round playoff loss, Fort Mill will be missing a big key in their scoring cog with the loss of Jacobi Wright, who transferred to Legacy Early College, a charter school in Greenville, during the off-season.

                Fort Mill still has coming back seniors Keyan Mims, Cabe Christopher and Jordan Herman; to go with juniors Brandon Wingo and Nic Curtis. The Jackets have seven players coming back from last season, but only Mims played significant minutes from last year.

                “Off last year, we lost three of our top four leading scorers,” said Fort Mill head coach Dwayne Hartsoe. “That is close to 89 percent of our scoring off of last year’s team.”

                Hartsoe, who is currently tied with Bailey Jackson for second most wins as a head coach for Fort Mill with 128, said that guard play will be key to success this year.

                “Our guard play is inexperience and it depends on how well they can adjust to the speed of the varsity game,” he said. “We should be okay size wise. Guard play is an important role. They have to get better. We just want to get better as the year goes on.”

                Hartsoe said making the playoffs will be a good goal for this year’s team. He feels like his team and rivals Nation Ford will be fighting for that final playoff spot.

                “It has come down to us two for the (region) championship for the past couple years and last year we finished third,” Hartsoe said. “We will use the season to get some experience for the young guys. By the time the region comes around we will be ready to be competitive. We have some good senior leadership.”

Fort Mill girls welcome new system

                This year’s Fort Mill girls’ team is bringing back key players in Calli Wells and Izzy Giarrizzi, but is also under different leadership as new head coach Heather Klipa is looking to install her system as this season might be a learning curve for the team. The team has seven returning players back from last year’s squad, including Regan Hodge, Maggie Blackwell, Lyric Smith and Felesha Geiger as well.

                “At this point in the year, everybody has a lot of work to do with hopes to be peaking at the right time,” Klipa said. “For us, it will be a lot about growth for the season. We got a lot of newcomers. For us, it is about creating the habits and culture we want as a team and hopefully, those things carrying over on the floor every night.”

                Fort Mill is coming off a 15-11 season, but struggled in region play and failed to make the playoffs. A goal for this year’s team is to secure a playoff spot.

                “The girls are working extremely hard,” Klipa said. “They are picking things up well. We are challenging them every day.”

                Fort Mill was picked to finish last in the region and Klipa said that gives her and the team some extra motivation to make sure that doesn’t happen.

                “We play in a good region and we have some good teams in the region,” she said. “It will be interesting to see how it shakes out. We can be competitive in our region. Definitely a goal of ours is to make the playoffs this year.”

                Fort Mill will open the regular season Dec. 3 against White Knoll at home. They will host Catawba Ridge Dec. 6 and then will travel to Catawba Ridge Dec. 13. The girls’ team will play in the Gaffney Invitational over the holiday break, while the boys’ team will play in the Claw Classic at Chapin. Their region schedule will start Jan. 17 at Rock Hill. Fort Mill will play at Nation Ford Jan. 28 and will host the Falcons Feb. 14 to end the regular season.

Mac Banks:, @MacBanksFM