The Thomas Sumter Academy boys basketball team is off to a 3-2 start heading into its game against Wilson Hall on Friday in the Baron Classic at Nash Student Center. That has Generals head coach Woody Lathan feeling good about his squad.
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"I'm happy being 3-2 right now based on the competition we've played," Lathan said. "Augusta Christian was loaded with talent and Westminster (Schools of Augusta, Georgia) was really good and we played them down to the wire."
The Generals fell to Augusta Christian 92-58 and to Westminster 49-41. However, they defeated Robert E. Lee Academy twice, 47-36 and 47-45, and beat Alleluia Community 79-33.
"We lost seven seniors from last year's team," Lathan said. "We have eight new players and two starters back - (senior guard) Mason Warren and (senior center) Tyler Millwood."
Warren is averaging 11.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and four steals per game and Millwood is averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. Millwood also made the Garden City Classic all-tournament team when the team played three tournament games in Georgia.
Junior guard Josh Fugate has also had an impact on the team, averaging 10.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.4 steal, and junior forward Cameron Dixon has also contributed, averaging 9.4 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Sophomores Ethan Lisenby and Preston Houser have also made an impact on the floor, but Houser is currently out indefinitely with a foot injury.
Lathan will also look for sophomore point guard Jarrett Poole and junior wing player Matthew Dailey to help the team out when needed.
"Jarrett Poole does a good job coming off the bench," Lathan said. "I also need (junior) Avery Eddins, (senior) Landen Rose and (junior) Michael Flynn to come off the bench and help. With the flu bug and injuries, I'm not sure who we're going to have available for Wilson Hall."
Lathan is hoping that pre-conference play will prepare his team for conference play.
"We're 2A, and every team we've played but Lee Academy is 3A," he said. "We're stacked in a tough pre-conference schedule to prepare for conference. It's not how we start, it's how we finish."
Another 3A team will be Wilson Hall.
"It's no different than (preparing for) Augusta Christian or Westminster," Lathan said on getting ready for Wilson Hall. "We have information on the team and our preparation will be based on our personnel, injuries and illnesses. If we're hitting on all eight (players who normally play), we'll prepare one way, but we'll be preparing another way if not. It throws a wrench into the wheel a little (but we'll do our) preparation based on who's gonna be there because we've had stuff pop up this week."
Lathan knows his team is young but expects it to improve throughout the season.
"We have three seniors and one who's never played before," he said. "We're defensive-oriented because two-thirds of the team is new. It's like in Forrest Gump. Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get until you pull it out.
"We're developing slowly; we've been going for five weeks total since the end of October," he said. "A freshman is a sophomore at the end of the season. If they give excuses, I tell them it's the same court, the same gym, the same referee and the same ball."
Lathan is excited for the competition level that will be at the Baron Classic. Aside from the Generals and the Barons, the tournament will include Laurence Manning Academy, Augusta Christian, Carolina Academy, Pinewood Prep and Heathwood Hall, which the Generals will play on Saturday at 1 p.m.
"It's a good tournament," he said.
Lathan is also excited about what this season has in store.
"Our guys are working hard," he said. "We have a lot to learn and we're learning every day. We should be competitive, especially in our conference."
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