Patriot Boys Go Up-Tempo
Pinecrest will take the court for Monday’s boys’ basketball opener at Southern Lee with four players standing 6 feet tall or under and one at 6-2.
You’ll be surprised,” Patriot coach Andrew Lacey said, addressing how the size-challenged Patriots will be able to compete in the paint. “Unless you come and watch us play, you won’t understand how hard these guys work and how much they put into what they do.”
The Patriots were 7-18 overall and 2-9 in the Southeastern Conference in Lacey’s first season after succeeding the highly successful Mike Apple who became the coach at Sandhills Community College. The Virginian was a late hire and the team missed most of its summer training. Five members left the team during the season, providing opportunities and valuable experience for younger players.
To compensate for the team’s physical limitations, Lacey is adopting a style of play that seems to have the players excited.
“I expect it to be a great season,” says Justin Ray, a 6-0 wing player who averaged 7.8 points per game and led the team in assists. “We’re going to play an up-tempo style and we’re all in this year. The quitters already left. We’ve been working hard all summer and into the fall just to restart this thing.”
The leading scoring among the eight returnees is 6-3 Adam Cummings. One of the purest shooters in the region, the senior guard averaged 12.3 points per game. He sank 41 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and made 83 percent of his free throws.
He will be looked to for leadership along with Frankie Painter, a team captain as a junior. The 6-3 forward brings a strong defensive and board game. Sam Brower, like Painter and Ray, a football standout, is another veteran with defensive toughness. He was also the team’s second best three-point shooter a year ago.
“We’ve got Justin at the slasher position where we want him to attack the basket and use his mid-range game,” Lacey says. “Adam can shoot the lights out. He’s faster, taller and better defensively than last year. And he gives us another ball handler.
“Having Frankie back is huge. I’m really looking for him to have increased productivity offensively as well as what he does on the defensive side. Sam is going to lead us in the intangible categories like leadership. Playing football at free safety has helped his anticipation so much. It fits right into our style of play.”
The style of play includes a 10- or 12-man rotation. As currently configured, Cummings, Painter and Brower are among the players that will come off the bench.
“It’s going to be 32 minutes of base line to base line,” the coach says. “We’re not big and that’s the only way we can play. Why aren’t they starting? We tell our guys every day we don’t have a first five or a second five. We’re using the old army platoon system and we want to be better than the other team’s six through 10.”
The small, quick unit that will be charged with getting the Patriots off on the right foot Monday night includes Ray, senior point guard Jermaine Martin-Calhoun and three juniors. Martin-Calhoun provides high-energy at both ends. The shooting-guard Brendan Ortiz averaged six points a game a year ago. Lacey describes 6-2 point forward Kardashian Ragin as a skilled player who is also the team’s best defender.
The starting post man is 6-0 foot Trevion Wooten, another football player, who was a member of the junior varsity team a year ago.
“Yes, we know he’s undersized,” his coach says, “but nobody can match his competitive effort, toughness and athleticism. He’s cat-quick and he’s got moves inside. What we’re trying to do offensively and defensively he complements so well.”
Ragin knows he will almost always be assigned to players bigger than he is.
“Whatever coach asks me to do, I’ll do it,” he says. “If he asks me to guard the center, I’ll do it — whatever the team needs.”
Also back is 6-4 junior Chyshad McGriff. New varsity players include senior Charles Woodard, juniors Paul Winter-McRae, Jvyhoun Justice and David Ivey and sophomore Jamaan Calhoun.
Hoke County returns plenty of talent, including conference player of the year Tarique Thompson, to the team that won the SEC regular season and tournament titles before bowing out in the East Regional final. Lacey feels the early schedule will prepare his team well for league play.
Ragin likes the up-tempo game and the fact that it will get more players involved. He is also optimistic the team will be much improved from a year ago.
“I feel the program is more together,” he says. “Being together since the summer makes us more of a family than a team.”
The Patriots open at home on Tuesday against Jack Britt. The tip-off on Monday and Tuesday is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Lacey will be assisted by Josh Newton and Larry Shields. Ronshau Cole is the jayvee coach and Steve Lassiter will coach the freshmen.
Nov. 19 – at Southern Lee; 20 – Jack Britt; 26 – at Christian Faith Academy; 30 – Southern Lee; Dec. 4 – at Jack Britt; 5 – Fayetteville Christian; 7-8 – at Berwick, Pa. tournament; 14 – at Hoggard; 17 – Lee County; 20 – Christian Faith Academy; 27-29 – Holiday in the Pines tournament; Jan. 11 – Lumberton; 15 – Scotland; 18 – at Purnell Swett; 25 – at Richmond; 29 – Hoke; Feb. 1 – at Lumberton; 5 – at Scotland; 8 – Purnell Swett; 12 – Richmond (Senior Night); 15 – Hoke; 19-22 - SEC tournament.
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