Cavs optimistic for fallPublished 7:51pm Tuesday, July 8, 2014
By Matthew Hatfield
Special to the News-Herald
The Lakeland Cavaliers basketball team found reason for optimism for the 2014-2015 season during the Jeff Jones Old Dominion University Basketball Team Camp in June.
A total of 40 teams participated in the three-day event, concluding with tournament play.
Lakeland was able to participate on only one day, but the Cavaliers made their time worthwhile with three challenging tests, two played on ODU’s collegiate-level floor.
“This is our first experience from a competitive standpoint this off-season,” Lakeland coach Clint Wright said. “The guys were excited about the opportunity of playing here at Old Dominion, and the fact that we got to play at the Ted Constant Center, that’s an even greater privilege. We’re so grateful that they allowed us to come. Our plans are definitely to make a place for it next year because of the format and quality teams involved.”
In their opener, Lakeland fell to Woodside 40-35 in a tight affair, but corrected the mistakes they made in that contest with a 48-42 win over Warwick. Their evening was capped by a 55-53 loss in double-overtime to Grafton, which made it to the Group 4A-South regional semifinals last season and played in the state championship each of the two previous years.
Wright says his team is grasping the offensive concept he’s been preaching since taking over before the start of the 2012-13 campaign.
“Our guys have a tendency to think when they miss a shot it’s a bad thing, but as a coach, when you run the offense the way it’s designed and take the open shot, that’s all we’re worried about in the summertime,” he said.
“We want you to simply do it the right way, because we’ll work on you making the shot when that time comes. I’m loving the offensive execution right now.”
Lakeland can expect good team depth and a big front line. Top scorer Deonta Knight, a 6-foot-3-inch rising junior forward, is back. Joining him up front are two 6-foot-5-inch guys, rising senior Irvin Ashburn and rising junior Kayonta Brown, plus 6-foot-9-inch, 280-pound rising sophomore center Glenn Smith, a potential marquee player down the road.
“He’s getting some valuable experience in this tournament, and we want to show him what that varsity speed is like,” Wright said of Smith. “Right now he’s a touch behind, a late bloomer, but our intent is probably to move him up the second semester after he gets his feet wet playing J.V. basketball.”
In the backcourt, 6-foot-2-inch rising senior point guard Kenya Latham is at the controls of the offense and made some pinpoint passes that turned into a handful of assists during the weekend. Rising senior Terry Mitchell backs him up at the point and gives the Cavs someone who can play any of the three positions on the perimeter.
Rising juniors Qurante Budd and Daquan Boyette handle the duties at shooting guard. Boyette nailed a three-pointer at the buzzer in the first overtime against Grafton in a game where the Cavs trailed by five with 1:10 to play.
Rising senior John Scott is able to fill several different roles as an all-purpose wing who provides hustle on the defensive end, along with many intangibles.
“I like that we don’t have to depend on one player,” Wright said. “We’ll easily be able to play 10 or 11 players who can make an impact. Our parts are so interchangeable and we’re thrilled with the numbers and bodies that we have.”