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Grangers getting to work

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

They’re glad to be back in their element.

The members of the LaGrange High boys’ basketball team were able to start summer conditioning on June 8, but because of Georgia High School Association restrictions they were unable to use a basketball.

That changed this week, with phase two of summer conditioning getting underway.

While teams can’t play games or scrimmage, phase two gives players the go-ahead to start using basketballs, and the Grangers have been taking full advantage of that this week.

“It was good to be back in the gym,” said Garrett Jacobsen, a sophomore who saw extensive playing time as a freshman. “It’s very important, getting our chemistry with our teammates.”

Junior Kobe Jones, a two-year starter at point guard, said summer workouts give the players a chance to “get back in the groove of things. It was good to be able to shoot, good to be back in the gym.”

Taylor Stephens, a senior guard, was also happy to be in the gym once again with his teammates.

“It feels good,” Stephens said. “We can work on our chemistry.”

LaGrange head coach Mark Veal has been proud of the participation level among the players, even before they could start dribbling a basketball.

“I was glad with the turnout we had when they knew they weren’t touching the ball,” Veal said. “They allowed us to return on June 8, and we lifted for three days a week. We’ve had good commitment from our kids.”

Each evening the players are getting together at the gym for a weight-lifting session before heading onto the court for some drills.

“They’d rather get in here and ball, but we can’t do that,” Veal said.

Veal’s hope is that phase three of summer conditioning, which will permit teams to begin scrimmaging, will come soon.

“Hopefully the GHSA will get to phase three, and we’ll do some summer ball in July,” Veal said. “For the past two or three years we’ve been doing fall ball, so we’ll do that again.”

LaGrange is coming off a successful season that ended with a hard-fought loss to Denmark in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

The Grangers went nearly two months at the start of the season without losing a game, and they improved to 17-0 with a dramatic road win over the Troup Tigers.

The Grangers lost some key seniors from that team, including college signees D.J Burks and Nafis Carston, but there are some gifted players returning.

Jones has been a standout point guard the past two seasons, Javon Brown had a breakout season as a junior, and Jacobsen was a key contributor as a freshman.

“We return our point guard, and it’ll be his third year starting. That’s an added bonus when your point guard return,” Veal said. “And Javon had a heck of a year last year, and you’ve got Garrett, and he’s grown. He’s about 6-4 now.”

Veal is counting on some other players to step up and be contributors this season.

“We’ve got some young kids that we were high on last year, and we’re still high on them,” Veal said. “We’re hoping they’ll be able to step in, and they can. A lot of young guys, they got some varsity time, so they’ll be ready.”