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story.lead_photo.caption Jefferson City's Sterling DeSha slaps the ball out of hands of Helias' Colby LeCuru during a game last season at Fleming Fieldhouse. Photo by Jason Strickland / News Tribune.

The Jefferson City Jays won't bring a lot of height to the basketball court this season, but they think they have a way to make up for that.

"Our guys are just so much stronger and more powerful," Jefferson City boys basketball coach Tony Phillips said as the Jays get set to begin their season tonight at Sedalia Smith-Cotton. "You can just see with the guys playing above the rim and the way they get off the floor. You can see it in their bodies. We don't have any size but we're definitely stronger. One of the things that we're going to have to do better this year to win the games that we want to win is rebound."

Sterling DeSha, a 6-foot-3 senior, will be asked to play in the 4 position this season in order to take advantage of his length and added strength.

DeSha has shown the ability to shoot it well from the outside in the past, but is looking to make more of an impact at the basket.

"The way he plays above the rim now, he'll try to dunk on people," Phillips said. " That's fun to see, it gets the kids fired up."

Helping out in the post will be Michael Onunkwor, a 6-2 junior.

Senior Keith Driver will take point guard duties.

"He's had a great summer," Phillips said. "He can get to the rim and finish. I think his shot has gotten better and he's playing with an extreme amount of confidence."

At the other starting guard spots will be seniors Koby Sands and Arron Stallings, who'll play in his first season with the Jays after being at University High School in Carmel, Ind.

"He's lightning quick," Phillips said. "He gets to the rim. He's a drive first, shoot second kind of guy. Just his skillset fits in well."

Playing fast and creating havoc on the defensive end will be he approach for the Jays, who are coming off a 12-14 season.

"We'll be 98 percent man," Phillips said. "We might jump into a zone every now and then, but it'll probably be full-court man. We don't want to think steal because that's when their stop their feet. We want them to think trap."

Serving as the first guards off the bench will be seniors Quinn Walker, Nathan Hudnell and DaShawn Webster.

For depth in the post, the Jays have 6-4 junior Parker Gourley and 6-5 sophomore Cole Heller.

"We don't want to slow it down," Phillips said. "We just want to run in transition. If there's nothing there in transition, just get right into our secondary and then just play basketball off that. We'll have some sets that we'll run and those sets are designed to make sure certain people are getting the ball in certain locations and in big moments."

This will be the first season in the Central Missouri Activities Conference for the Jays, who'll take on Smith-Cotton, Battle, Helias, Rock Bridge, Hickman and Capital City in conference play.

"I think we're good enough to win the conference," Phillips said. "It's not going to be easy. You've got Rock Bridge and you've got Helias, and Battle isn't going to be a pushover."

Jefferson City will also take on Helias in the Great 8 Classic on Dec. 30 at Fleming Fieldhouse. Because of COVID-19, the Classic will only feature local teams this season.

Other than the Crusaders, Jefferson City will take on Father Tolton and Blair Oaks during the three-day event.

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