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Dozen former Grangers playing college basketball

By Kevin Eckleberry

kevin.eckleberry@lagrangenews.com

LAGRANGE – When a new college basketball season commences in about six months, the LaGrange Grangers will be well-represented.

Twelve former Grangers will be playing basketball for college teams next season, and that includes seven members of the 2016-2017 LaGrange team that went 26-4.

LaGrange head coach Mark Veal said finding a college home for the players is a task that he and the other coaches take seriously.

“We work hard here, our staff does,” Veal said. “We work hard to find these guys a spot. We email, we call, we send out highlight films on Hudl and everything. You look at all these guys, geographically they’re spread out across the U.S. We’ve got them out west, the midwest, down south, up north. We do a good job placing them.”

Veal said a key is finding a place where they will have a positive experience, and where they’ll get to play.

“Just because you’re on a Division I team doesn’t mean you’re going to play,” Veal said. “You want to go play, and have a good college experience. I think our guys have set themselves up nicely, even if they’re going JUCO. They can transfer out if they want to go Division I, or Division II, or NAIA.”

Two of the former Grangers, Don Leak and Baron Smith, will return for their senior seasons at Rogers State, an NCAA Division II program in Oklahoma.

Smith was one of the team’s top players last season.

The guard was third on the team in scoring at 14 points per game, and he also led the way with three assists per game.

Smith started 28 of the team’s 29 games, and he averaged a team-high 30 minutes a game.

Leak, a post player who was coming off a second serious knee injury, averaged two points and 2.5 rebounds while playing seven minutes a game.

Danterrius Bray will be returning for his third season at Maryville.

The guard, who was a tremendous outside shooter during his time at LaGrange, has played sparingly during his first two seasons at Maryville.

Alex Dantzler was at Fort Scott Community College last season as a freshman, and he was red-shirted.

Dantzler is transferring to Southeast Community College in Nebraska, which has been home to a number of former Grangers over the years.

There will, in fact, be four LaGrange High graduates playing for Southeast next season.

Two other LaGrange players who just graduated, D.J. Cooley and Quez Jackson, will be joining Qua Epps and Dantzler at Southeast.

Epps, a guard, played in 19 games and averaged 3.2 points per game last season.

“(Southeast’s coach) comes through here every year, and he trusts us,” Veal said. “He wants guys that are going to come in and compete and be good teammates. That’s what those two will do.”

Another former Granger already in college is Derieko Smith, who spent his freshman season at Cowley Community College in Kansas.

Smith, a guard who was a two-time region player of the year at LaGrange, averaged 13 points per game last season, and he had a 31-point effort against Independence on Dec. 7.

Smith is transferring to Wallace State Community College in Alabama, and he’ll be joined there by two other former Grangers.

Kenan Gray and Bryan Fanning, who formed an imposing inside duo for the Grangers last season, will be freshmen for Wallace State.

Gabe Duckett, a senior guard on last season’s team, is heading to Greenville College in Illinois.

LaPerion Perry, a dynamic guard who was LaGrange’s leading scorer last season, plans on playing two sports in college.

Perry signed with the University of West Georgia to play football and basketball.

In addition to the men playing basketball, a number of former Grangers are playing other sports in college, including brothers Drew Moody and Logan Moody, who play baseball at the University of Georgia.

“Hopefully we’re doing a good job of preparing the guys for when they get there,” Veal said.