Cavaliers look to build on foundation

Published 7:42 pm Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Lakeland High School boys’ basketball team will be pushed this year not to live in the past.

The Cavaliers came on strong in the latter stages of last season, winning the Ironclad Conference tournament championship, but Lakeland coach Clint Wright is determined for his players to remain humble and hungry.

The banner commemorating the Cavs’ tournament title recently went up on the Lakeland gym wall during an event introducing the school’s 2014-15 basketball teams to the community.

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“That banner-raising was simply our foundation,” Wright said. “My goal is to build a program, not a one-year wonder.”

The Cavaliers saw their 2013-14 season end in the regional quarterfinals, and they finished with a 13-13 overall record.

Several players are gone from that squad, including graduates Marche Everett, Markese Wright and Brandon Bailey. Juniors Jaquan Yulee and Khalil McGlone have transferred to other schools.

Despite those losses, this year’s Lakeland team is laden with upperclassmen. It includes six seniors and six juniors, with one sophomore and one freshman.

Wright said the Cavaliers aim to improve on last year’s record by meeting another specific objective.

“Ultimately, our goal is just to play each game at the highest mental level and then at the highest physical level,” he said.

Wright recognized that lack of sufficient conditioning hurt Lakeland’s efforts early on last season and has worked to fix that problem this year.

“I expect for us, one, to be in much better shape,” he said. “I think we had a phenomenal preseason of conditioning.”

Leading the group of standouts that Wright will be counting on is junior small forward Deonta Knight, who averaged 12 to 13 points and 11 rebounds last season.

“We’ll definitely be expecting him to carry the load or be the initial threat,” Wright said, but added that Knight is surrounded by a wealth of players with experience.

Among them are juniors Daquan Boyette and Qurante Budd and senior Terry Mitchell.

Senior point guard Kenya Latham returns to bring his significant impact on offense, as well as defense.

“He’s a valuable part of the success of our program,” Wright said.

Senior center Irvin Ashburn, standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, will help limit opponents’ offensive options.

“His defensive presence on the inside will make it tough on layups and things of that nature,” Wright said.

Helping make the average height of this year’s squad greater than last year’s is 6-foot-5-inch junior Kayonta Brown, who will contribute at the power forward position.

Wright also highlighted senior John Scott, noting he is a phenomenal utility player and very athletic.

“He does those things that the stat book does not keep track of,” the coach said.

Senior Wesley Arrington, a Lakeland volleyball player, joins the basketball team this year, and Wright expects him to be another important utility player.

Wright plans to utilize nine to 10 players a game and anticipates points for his team to come from a variety of sources in addition to Knight, similar to last year.

Lakeland begins its 2014-15 season on Tuesday at home against Great Bridge High School.