Losing three of their last four games of the 2012-13 season didn’t make for a joy-filled offseason for Liberty County Panthers head boys basketball coach Willie Graham.
Liberty finished last season with a 12-15 overall record and 3-3 mark in Region 3A-AAAA. The Panthers’ region victories came against South Effingham twice and Wayne County.
However, Graham is happy with the size the Panthers will have this season. Returning starters include seniors Freddie McSwain (6-foot-5) and Conner Bailey (6-5), junior Josh Powers and sophomore Jishaun Harris (both 6-3). “Overall, we have good team height, but no one player that is over 6-5, and we play against some teams that have true big men,” Graham said. “They have a little size, but they are more like guards rather than forwards or posts.”
Being able to play in the same manner as guards — shooting outside and handling the ball — will give the Panthers a chance to be quicker and develop a balanced scoring attack.
“We have stressed in the offseason that we need to work on getting up and down the floor quick, offensively and defensively,” Graham said. “Having a little size will give up opportunities to take some pressure off the guards, and we have a chance to be able to score inside some and also grab more rebounds.”
Liberty has two underclassmen, Davion Mitchell and freshman football phenom Richard LeCounte, who could bolster Liberty’s lineup early in the season.
One of the biggest areas of concern for the Panthers, according to Graham, is being consistent. Leadership from upperclassmen also is something he’s looking for.
“We are still trying to find that one or two guys that will step up lead us this year,” Graham said, “someone that will keep their teammates steady when things aren’t going as well as planned. Teams are always battling for consistency. You want to be consistent in every area, and that is something we will continue working on during the entire season.”
The AAAA subdivided region has some formidable opponents.
“Our side of the region, it’s Statesboro as usual. The other side, it’s probably Butler,” Graham said.
Liberty opens against Groves at 5:30 tonight in the Southside Classic in Savannah. The Panthers will be at Bradwell on Nov. 22.