Panthers look to improve with tough competition in the summer

Published 3:36 pm Tuesday, June 18, 2024

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Lanett’s boys basketball program continued its summer playdate schedule on Tuesday as the Panthers hit the road to face off against Opelika. The Bulldogs controlled the game and won the exhibition 67-38. 

Opelika started the matchup on an 18-0 run and controlled the game from start to finish. A 7A school like Opelika facing a 2A school seems like a mismatch, and it is. That was the thought behind putting the game together for Lanett coach Tay McCants. 

McCants is known for putting his team through the wringer during the offseason and regular season. The Panthers consistently play teams in higher classifications because McCants wants his guys to become tougher through the matchups. 

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“Trying to get beat up on. Coach [Wesley] Button is doing a great job at Opelika. He has a great team,” McCants said. “We just came in here and tried to compete with a 7A school. We got a good workout this morning. I think they were feeling sorry for themselves, but we don’t care. We’re going to workout and we’re going to play in the summer.” 

Basketball in the summer is all about focusing on improvement and figuring out which guys can lead the way in the winter. Lanett had a young team last season, and several players are expected to take huge leaps during the offseason. 

Shamar Patterson and Eddie Mitchell were two of Lanett’s more impactful underclassmen last season. Patterson started as a sophomore while Jackson spent time coming off of the bench but did log a few starts. 

Patterson led the Panthers on Tuesday with nine points while Mitchell added seven points. The pair was also helped by seven points from Terrell Staples and six points from Kingston Gooden. 

Mitchell and Patterson are both expected to slot in as starters next season, but McCants is still looking for the pair to take the next step in their progression. 

“As for Eddie, he’s got to be more of a leader on the court,” McCants said. “He’s our starting point guard. We’re putting the keys in his hands, so he has to drive the ship. Shamar is doing a great job. He’s working in the weight room, the football field and on the court. He’s going to be a great guy for us this year too.” 

The Panthers face challenges during the summer that are unique to smaller schools. Just about all of Lanett’s roster is dual-sport athletes. Lanett’s players have to put in 2x as much work to prepare for both sports during the summer. 

“Coach McDonald, he’s working real good with me,” McCants said. “We have a schedule where they workout in the morning, do weights and conditioning. Then, we do football and basketball right after. We have those guys for like six to seven hours every day and then we release them to go home.”
Lanett’s JV and junior high teams also faced off against Opelika on Tuesday. Several of the JV guys will split time with the varsity team during the summer and during the regular season. 

McCants is looking for some of the players on the junior varsity team to step up and make their way to the varsity roster. He has already tabbed a few guys who have the potential to make that jump this season. 

“Some of the guys I’m looking forward to when February hits are Jaylen Hill and Mike McCants,” McCants said. “I think they’re going to be really good for us. We also have an upcoming seventh grader that’s going to be real good. We’re going to use him with the junior high and JV so that he can get some reps and move to varsity next year.” 

Lanett was an inexperienced team last season, but just about every player on the roster got some experience under their belts. McCants is looking for the team to become more physical this offseason while also improving on its speed. 

“They’ve bought into the weight room,” McCants said. “Last year, they were in the 10th grade, and they were getting pushed around a lot. Now, with them being juniors, we’re telling them it’s your time now.”