Granger standouts headed to college

Published 1:48 pm Tuesday, May 8, 2018


Daily News

On a LaGrange High team with so many new pieces, Daz Williams and Bo Russell were the “old” guys, the ones who’d been through the battles so many times before.

During the 2016-2017 season, the Grangers won a third consecutive region championship and reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

That was a senior-dominated team, so when a new season rolled around in November, head coach Mark Veal was leading an almost entirely new group of players onto the court.

There were two familiar faces.

Russell was a starter on the 2016-2017 team, and on an insanely talented team, he managed to occasionally be the best player on the court.

Williams didn’t start, but he was a sharp shooter who came off the bench to provide a spark with his ability to knock down shots from long distance.

This past season, Russell and

Williams were no longer complementary players, they were the centerpieces of an almost brand-new team.

With the two seniors leading the way, the Grangers continued to excel.

LaGrange went 18-12 and finished fourth in Region 5-AAAA before losing to Lafayette in the opening round of the state tournament.

That the Grangers accomplished as much as they did was due in no small part to the contributions of Russell and Williams, who both had terrific senior seasons.

Now, those two soon-to-be former Grangers will get an opportunity to play the game on the next level.

Russell has signed a letter of intent to join the basketball program at Southern Union, a two-year program in Wadley, Ala.

Williams is heading to Nebraska to play for Southeast Community College, and he’s the latest in a long line of LaGrange High graduates to join that program.

Last week, signing celebrations were held for both men in the LaGrange High media center, and they were joined by their teammates, coaches, friends, and family members.

“This season, (Russell) and Daz pretty much carried us,” Veal said. “If they were at the top of their game scoring each night, we knew we had a chance to win.”

Russell transferred from Troup to LaGrange for his sophomore season, and he enjoyed an outstanding three-year stint as a Granger.

Russell is a versatile player who is capable of throwing down highlight-reel dunks or knocking down 3-pointers, and he’s a suffocating defender.

Southern Union coach Ron Radford, who attended the signing ceremony for Russell, said one of the things that always stood out about Russell was his relentless effort.

“The thing that impressed me with Bo, and I’ve come to quite a few games the last few years, I’ve never seen a night where he didn’t play hard,” Radford said.

Radford believes Russell has everything it takes to succeed on the college level.

“He’s the type of player in the past we’ve had a lot of success with, so we feel very fortunate to get him, and we’re going to do everything in our power to make sure he takes care of everything academically, and move him from the two-year level to the four-year level,” Radford said. “And we’ve got a pretty good track record of doing it.”

Russell said getting the chance to sign a basketball scholarship is “very special,” and he was glad to share the moment with those closest to him last week.

“They’ve been believing in me since I started high school,” Russell said.

While hoping to play for a four-year school down the road, Russell said his priority for the next few seasons will be to give everything he has at Southern Union.

“I’m just focused on doing my job there,” Russell said.

Williams was a four-year member of the varsity program, and his role on the team increased with each passing season.

The one thing Williams has always been able to do is shoot, and Veal said that makes him very appealing to college coaches.

“In college, in pro basketball, shooting’s at a premium,” Veal said. “A lot of coaches saw his highlight film and saw that he can shoot.”

When Williams was deciding whether Southeast was the place for him or not, he talked to some former Grangers who attended the school, including current LaGrange assistant coach Bernard Brooks.

“I wanted to see what it was like up there,” Williams said. “They told me a lot.”

Many of Williams’ staunchest supporters were at his signing ceremony, and he was grateful to have them there.

“It means a lot to me,” Williams said. “They’ve been there for me, all those people.”

Veal believes Williams has the type of personality that will allow him to succeed at a higher level.

“He’s got some toughness. He played football here all four years,” Veal said. “He’s a good kid, he’s a cool customer. He’s not going to get rattled. He’ll get out there, and he’ll flourish.”

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