Lakewood High School's boys basketball team lost a lot of talent from last year's team that went 18-7 and won the program's first ever region title with an 8-0 mark in Region VI-4A.
That being said, the Gators have a lot of talent back as well, and that has head coach Bryan Brown feeling good about his team's chances this season.
"I feel really good about this team," said Brown, whose team is ranked fourth among 4A schools in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association preseason poll heading into today's game at Sumter High School. "Right now, we're not as good as the team last year was at the end of the season. I feel like though that at the end of the year this team will be the better team."
And why does Brown feel like that? "Because of size," Brown said. "It plays a big role in any success that you have. We're going to be very big up front, and that's a good thing."
LHS will have a front court that includes junior Juwan Perdue and senior Ahkeem Lawson, both 6-feet-6-inches, and 6-4 sophomore Quentin Hodge, a transfer from South Florence High. Perdue averaged 7.5 points, 1.3 blocked shots and 6.0 rebounds while shooting 61 percent from the floor. Lawson averaged 7.0 points, 4.5 points and one block.
Perdue has an offer from South Carolina State and South Carolina, College of Charleston and Georgia Tech are showing interest in him.
"Length in basketball helps you make up for a lot of mistakes," Brown said. "It gives you opportunities on both offense and defense."
While the Gators have the size, they also have one of the best players in the state in Grant Singleton. The 6-0 point guard is rated as one of the top five players in the 4A ranks by the SCBCA.
Singleton was the region Player of the Year last season and was also an all-state selection. He averaged 20 points, four assists and three steals while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.
Brown believes Singleton, who has an offer from Division II Coker and is getting interest from DI schools Southeast Missouri State, Coastal Carolina and James Madison, does a good job of knowing when to disperse the basketball and when he needs to put the load on his shoulders.
"There are times when we want him to go and do what he does," Brown said of Singleton. "Then there are times when we want him to work on getting the ball other people's hands. Grant is able to do both of them quite well."
The other starter for the Gators is No. 2 guard Terrell Houston. The senior led a balanced scoring attack with 15 points in LHS' 62-55 season-opening victory over Lee Central on Tuesday in Bishopville. Singleton had 13, Hodge 12, Lawson 10 and Perdue seven.
Brown said the Gators will use a lot of different looks on defense.
"We're definitely going to mix it up," he said. "We're going to use pressure and try to increase the tempo, but we're not set on what our identity as s defense will be."