Lanett boys basketball team prepares to defend three consecutive state titles

Published 9:41 pm Monday, December 10, 2018

LANETT — It is finally game week for the three-time defending state champion Lanett Panthers.

This season, however, may be the most challenging one in recent memory for the program. Lanett is replacing four of last year’s starters, following the graduation of Terrion Truitt and twin tower bigs Emmanuel Littles and Anquaevious Pollard. The other replaced starter is Trikweze Bridges, who is committed to play football at Oregon next year.  Bridges isn’t enrolling early at Oregon, but he is being held out as a precaution.

Junior guard Quae Houston is the lone starter returning from last year. 

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“Terrion taught me a lot during my 9th and 10th-grade years in practice, going hard at me,” Houston said. “He taught me what I need to do to the younger guys, and that was really to help replace him. I think as we’ll get into the season, we’ll have some more guys stepping up into a bigger role for our team.”

For the majority of the end of practice on Monday afternoon, Houston ran with the group of seniors Jayshon Burton, Tifton Dobbs, junior Kristian Story and one of the Boozer twins, as Cameron and Zameron alternated spots often. 

This season will be the first time several players will see extensive playing time on the varsity level.

“We have to treat them as if they were kindergarteners their first day of school,” Lanett boys head basketball coach Richard Carter said. “It’s a learning process. It’s a step-by-step. My wife used to teach kindergarten, and she would put the dots on the letters, the students would trace the dots, and that’s what we’re having to do with this young basketball team. They’ve got to trace the dots. It all comes together with repetition. You have to keep doing it over-and-over.”

On Monday, the Panthers ran a number of drills and game simulations repeatedly with Carter occasionally stepping in to give the young players a few tips on how they can complete the tasks more efficiently. When one of the assistants asked what the team should do next in-between drills, Carter simply sat back in the bleachers, and said: “run.” The Panthers raced up-and-down the court time-after-time until there were only a handful of players left running.

Carter, a 45-year coaching veteran knows what his team is going up against, and he didn’t shy away from letting his players know.

“People are going to look at their chest, and they’re going to see ‘Lanett,’” Carter said. “When they see Lanett, it goes to their minds that ‘these guys have won three state championships in a row.’ They expect no less. They don’t care anything about whether or not those guys who played on the team last year are back or not.”

Carter referred back to this summer’s playdate that the Panthers had at 7A Smiths Station. While Lanett was only a 1A school facing off against Smiths Station, the gym was still packed like it was a regular season game.

The tough matchups come immediately for the Panthers this season, as the team travels to face 7A Central on Friday night. Going into Tuesday, the Red Devils are 3-0 this season, while the football team dominated its way to a 7A state championship last week after defeating Thompson 52-7.

This season will be a tall task to conquer for Lanett, but if there’s a program that’s equipped to handle the pressure, it’s the Panthers. This past football season, Lanett’s championship-defending journey ended in the third round of the state playoffs at Maplesville.

“I think in football, we might have had the idea that we were going to go out and manhandle everybody,” Houston, who’s also a receiver for the Panthers, said. “We just had the big head and got complacent. In basketball, we can’t let that happen. We have to bring our ‘A’ game every night.”

While Carter said that the team will have its growing pains early in the season, he said he believes that the team will hit its stride once again heading into February.

“It’s going to take some time,” he said. “People just have to be patient with us.”