The Thomas Sumter Academy varsity boys basketball team won only seven games last year, and already the outlook is better this season, according to head coach Woody Lathan, a veteran coach at three area SCISA schools now in his first year at the Dalzell school after watching from the sidelines for 15 years.
The difference is confidence, Lathan said on Wednesday.
"What we're trying to to, my coaches and myself, is try to instill a winning, confident attitude," said Lathan, whose team is 2-2 heading into this weekend's Baron Classic at Wilson Hall's Nash Student Center. came against Laurence Manning, one of Lathan's former teams.
"I started these guys off like I didn't know them, just like I would have done with a team I've never seen," Lathan said. "I started everything from scratch, because I felt like that was the best thing to do under the circumstances, and they're working really hard. What we're trying to to, my coaches and myself, is try to instill a winning, confident attitude. The boys have accepted that very well, and we're beating people that they had lost to last year, the year before - they're doing a good job."
"When you start beating people that used to beat you, it builds a confidence, of course," he said. "I was very proud of our effort against Laurence Manning, one of the best 3A schools in the state, and we played them pretty close. We were happy with our effort there."
Lathan pointed to returning starting guards Eli Kessinger and Zach Fugate as the natural leaders of the team, and praised the defensive play of junior guard Mason Warren. Junior center Tyler Millwood provides the Generals' inside presence, and Dazjuan Butler has come off the bench to provide a spark, Lathan said.
For Lathan, success is all about defense and desire.
"I have a saying I tell the kids," Lathan said. "Our success doesn't depend on the other team; our success depends on us executing the game of basketball. Not to take away from anybody (the competition), but we go one game at a time."
Lathan said his team's three games this week, Tuesday's 1-point loss to Richard Winn and this weekend's games in the Baron Classic against Wilson Hall and Orangeburg Prep, will provide a good measuring stick for the Generals.
"It's a big week for us, and we're going to do what we do best," Lathan said. "Hopefully it will come out for the best. On a personal level, I'm very blessed to have this fine group of young men. They're working hard and we anticipate very good things before the year's over."