Thursday, February 23, 2012

Closer Look: Laney Wildcats

Laney Wildcats (23-4) vs Crawford Co Eagles (9-19)
@Laney High School
5 P.M., Saturday, Feb 25
After reaching Class AA’a state tournament Final Four during each of the two previous seasons, the Laney Wildcats are poised for another deep run, but senior Drez Newton informs us that the Laney players and coaches are focused squarely on the immediate task:  "Last year we set out to win a state championship.  This year we are taking it one game at a time," explains the point guard.  Saturdays opening round game is at home versus Crawford County.

The Wildcats have been motivated all season to prove that the loss of Rod Hall Jr., who now plays guard for the Clemson Tigers, will not interrupt the program’s transformation into a perennial class AA power.  "We have worked to establish a basketball program, as opposed to a basketball team, emphasizing weight training and conditioning.  This year's group got a dose of that routine last year, but they got the full experience this season.  And they have learned that when your skill fails, your will prevails," said head coach Jerry Hunter at a recent practice.  And the Wildcats seem to be on track, moving through region 3-AA play undefeated before capturing the region tournament championship with a convincing, 59-49 victory over Bleckley County last Saturday.

Region 3-AA Champion: Laney Wildcats
Newton and Senior back court mate Jamie West lead a high energy, yet disciplined, attack that features experienced, dynamic guard play and a formidable inside attack centered around 6’6” senior center Shaquille Cook. The Wildcats are playing at a high level, closing the regular season with a road win against the region 3-AAA champion Josey Eagles before sailing through its own region tournament. 

The seemingly smooth transition to life without Hall is no surprise to the Tiger guard.  According to the beloved Wildcat Alum, the maturation and leadership of Laney’s senior back court is no surprise, "Drez and Jamie work hard and will do whatever it takes to get better,” Hall recently explained.  Head Coach Jerry Hunter and his fine staff are obviously well down the path of installing an elite basketball program to compliment Laney’s proud heritage.

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