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Laurence Manning High School
Manning

Senior Leadership Of Kelly, Lee Should Keep Laurence Manning In Hunt For Region Title in Boy’s Basketball

By Billy G. Baker

Publisher

Manning—The Swampcats boy’s basketball team has come out of the gate 6-2 as of mid-December and veteran head coach Will Epps is hoping to improve on last years 26-8 team despite the lost of several key players from last year.

Coach Epps is starting his 18th season at Laurence Manning and he is starting his 13th season as the boy’s head varsity coach. He led the LMA team to a state title in 2010.

The team has early season wins over Thomas Sumter, Oakbrook Prep, Carolina Academy, Ben Lippen and two wins over The Kings Academy. They have a four point loss to Trinity-Byrnes Collegiate and a bigger loss to Pinewood Prep earlier in the season.

“Our goals are the same in that we want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season and we have won our region four out of the past five years so winning the region is at the top of our goals,” said Coach Epps. “Once we get into the playoffs we know that anything can happen.

“As long as we have a player like our 6-8 senior center Jerrel Kelly, who has been in our program the past four seasons, we feel like we can compete with just about any team on our schedule,” said Coach Epps. “He’s 6-8 with a 7-2 wing span and he has a very high basketball I-Q. He can handle the ball like a point guard against the press. He also shoots very well from the outside. A player like Kelly gives us a chance to be competitive in our region.”

Kelly is currently averaging 13 points and 14.8 points a game. He is getting recruiting interest from Texas Tech and Murray State and he has an offer from Old Dominion,

With Kelly dominating play on the inside senior point guard Taylor Lee is a three year starter who serves as a floor general for the Swampcats. “Taylor is our team captain averaging 10 points and three assists a game and he is like having a coach on the court,” said Coach Epps. “He knows the role of every one of our players during a game. He is a very smart basketball player who is highly competitive. He is a winner with great leadership skills.”

Senior wing Grayson Dennis is a starter averaging 8 points a game. “Grayson has been in the program three years now and he is very athletic who shoots the ball well and he is getting better with each game,” said Coach Epps.

Dawson Hatfield is a senior wing starter who had a team high 19 points in LMA’s win over The Kings Academy recently. “He had a monster dunk against The Kings that brought all of our fans out of their seats,” said Coach Epps. “He is a good athlete with good length who also rebounds well.”

LMA plays with a four guard attack. “Everyone has guard skills on our team,” said Coach Epps. “This helps us when teams try to press us.”

Others contributors on the 11 man roster are 6-1 sophomore wing Chase Lee who is described as a good shooter and junior power forward Jake Jordan who plays very physical on defense and is aggressive on the boards. Senior guard Braydon Osteen is playing for the first time since his freshman year. Osteen is a good shooter, good rebounder and he also provides good leadership.

At the present time three LMA players are nursing injuries and Coach Epps hopes to have them back around the first of the year. Senior guard Terry Moore has shoulder issues, junior guard Brewer Brunson has ankle issues and sophomore guard Wyatt Rowland has a foot injury.

Over the holidays LMA will participate in two events. On December 19-20 they will play in the Mid-Carolina Classic hosted by the city of Camden and their first game will be against Camden. Then on December 22-23 they will compete in a tournament hosted by Heathwood Hall and they will play the Highlanders in the first game.

Coach Epps is assisted by Shawn McCord who also serves as LMA’s strength and conditioning coach.

“We always feel like a state championship contender but we lost six seniors off of last year’s team and then we had three other players all transfer to public schools in Sumter County so we have some holes to fill,” said Coach Epps. “This team has great potential but we still have a lot of work to do to get all the pieces in the right places.”          

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