Plenty of time on the hardwood
LAGRANGE – It’s been a busy, and productive summer for the LaGrange Grangers.
The Grangers, under the direction of head coach Mark Veal, have wrapped up their summer basketball schedule, and they crammed a whole bunch of games into a short period of time.
In less than a month, the Grangers played more than 20 games, giving the players some valuable time on the court together.
“We’ve probably played about 25 games,” Veal said. “That’s a lot of games, and we’ve had a lot of practices.”
The Grangers are coming off an exceptional 2015-2016 season.
LaGrange went 23-6, won a second consecutive region championship, and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAAA state tournament where it lost a close game to South Paulding.
Many of the players responsible for that success have graduated, including Derieko Smith, the two-time Region 1-AAAAA player of the year.
There are plenty of talented players returning, though, including Gabe Duckett, Jerious Freeman, Bryan Fanning and Kenan Gray, who either started or played significant minutes last season.
The team’s top returning player, senior LaPerion Perry, is inactive at the moment after undergoing hip surgery recently, but if all goes well he’ll anchor the team next season.
“All the guys we have returning from last year’s team that are playing, they’ve produced (this summer),” Veal said last week. “We’ve got some guys coming up from our (junior varsity), and they’ve done well. You’ve got to get used to the speed. You go from freshmen, to JV to this, the speed is so much different. And that’s what they realize. I think what’s helped is they’re getting a little bit more comfortable, and their shots are hitting.”
While every team is missing players, Veal said the summer games are still a critical tool for coaches as they make their plans for a new season.
“Whoever you play in the summer, they may be missing key guys, and you’re missing key guys,” Veal said. “But what it does is allow you to give somebody a chance to step up and shine possibly, and we’ve had guys here or there at different times during the summer that have.”
Veal exits the summer feeling good about his team, although he said “we obviously have some things we’ve got to work on.”
“I keep seeing us get better, and we haven’t peaked yet, which is good,” Veal added. “We want to peak during the season.”
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports