Busy summer for Grangers

Published 9:37 pm Thursday, June 14, 2018


Daily News

It’s a not-so-secret to their success.

Each summer, the LaGrange Grangers play a bunch of games, giving the players a chance to get to know each other and learn how to share the court together.

That way when the season begins in November the Grangers are, they hope at least, a step ahead of the competition.

Considering the success the program has enjoyed in recent years, it’s hard to argue with the strategy.

This summer, the Grangers are busy once again, playing close to 30 games during June and July.

On Thursday, the Grangers were at home for four games, and they won two and lost two.

LaGrange’s wins were against Heard County and Valley.

“It’s been going good,” said Mark Veal, who is heading into his fourth season as head coach. “We’ve had Upson-Lee in here, and Shaw, and Woodward Academy. A lot of these schools, they have Division I players. It’s really just about getting experience. These guys they’re playing against, they’re good.”

After winning three consecutive region championships and making a pair of trips to the state quarterfinals, the Grangers appeared to be in rebuilding mode heading into the 2017-2018 season.

Thanks in part to the experience the players gained last summer, though, the Grangers continued to excel.

LaGrange finished with an 18-12 record, and it made it to the state tournament before losing to Lafayette in the first round.

That team only had two players, Bo Russell and Daz Williams, who had significant varsity experience, but the Grangers hit the ground running and won six of eight games in the first few weeks of the season.

“Bo and Daz were the only two with experience, and those other three (seniors) got valuable experience in the summer,” Veal said. “It translated over into the season.”

Once again, LaGrange will head into a season with a different look following the departure of a talented group of seniors.

The Grangers who’ll be taking on larger roles next season are getting their chance to show what they can do this summer.

Among those players is junior guard DJ Burks, who had 14 points in a win over Valley on Thursday.

The Grangers will have some talented veterans returning, including senior Vondez Taylor, who stepped up and became one of the team’s top players last season.

Taylor, who is also a standout football player, had 16 points in the win over Valley.

“(Taylor has) had a good summer, and then we’ve got some younger guys that have been waiting in the wings,” Veal said.

Two of LaGrange’s other key returnees, Earley Sanders and Jordan Ogletree, are out with injuries and are unable to play this summer.

On Thursday, the only players on the court who saw considerable varsity playing last season were Taylor and senior Marquis Cox.

In addition to the games, Veal said the players also get together for regular practices during the week.

“We usually don’t have to beg them to get out here,” Veal said.

Veal does understand the players have other commitments, so he knows they won’t be there every time the gym is open.

“At every high school, you’ve got these kids that are doing football, and AAU, and they have jobs,” Veal said. “Summer’s busy for these kids.”