At this time last season, the Sumter High School boys basketball team was ranked No. 4 in 5A. The Gamecocks were coming off a successful 2017-18 season that saw them finish with an 18-7 record and advance to the quarterfinals of the state …
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At this time last season, the Sumter High School boys basketball team was ranked No. 4 in 5A. The Gamecocks were coming off a successful 2017-18 season that saw them finish with an 18-7 record and advance to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
After a slow start and an injury to star forward Calvin Felder, the Gamecocks sputtered to an 11-13 record last season, missing the playoffs with a senior-laden team. Head coach Shawn Jones resigned shortly thereafter, opening the door for Lakewood head coach Bryan Brown to move over to Sumter.
"It was just a different opportunity with more visibility, and it was an opportunity to compete in 5A," Brown said of his decision to take over the head coaching duties at Sumter.
Brown and the Gamecocks are starting with a fresh slate this season and hoping for a very fast rebuild. Sumter's region, IV, includes two of the top five teams in the state in No. 3 Blythewood and No. 5 Irmo, along with defending region champion Spring Valley.
"It's going to be extremely tough, especially since we have a young team," said Brown. "Blythewood and Irmo are ranked, and they definitely have really good coaches. Those teams will be really prepared. We have a tough job ahead of us, but we're ready. Our guys have been working hard along with the coaching staff, and I think we'll be prepared and ready to go when it's time to start region play."
The team will need to come together very quickly if it wants to avoid missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. The Gamecocks have just one returning contributor from last year's team in senior point guard Carldrelle Cooper. The only other players on the roster with varsity experience are a pair of Lakewood transfers in Leslie Owens and Justshawn Andrews. Justus Boone, a standout defensive end on the Sumter football team, has also joined the team and is projected to be a starter.
"We're just trying to put in our system, and the guys are really buying into it," said Brown. "It makes it easy that we've got a young team, and they're willing to accept the changes that we've made. It's just basketball at the end of the day. We have high expectations for them on both ends of the floor, and they've accepted those challenges."
Brown's system should be fun to watch, but he acknowledges that it could take some time before his team can enforce it for the full 32 minutes.
"We want to play fast, and we want to be aggressive offensively," said Brown. "Given that we're young, we'll have to protect some of our weaknesses early on, but we want to build the program so that we'll be able to play 90% of the game at a fast pace."
While the team may be inexperienced now, they have a bright future with three sophomores that could potentially start this year in Joseph Durant, Nakeem Isaac, and Owens. Brown also expects big contributions from Jaiven Lowery Isaac.
"Jaiven is one of the leaders from (last year's) JV team," said Brown. "He's a big guy that can really get to the basket, so we have high expectations for him offensively."
Despite all of the changes over the past few months, Brown wants to see his team set big goals moving forward.
"We're going to set small goals building to our ultimate goal of winning the championship. We shoot big, and we want to dream big."
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