The Panther football team is not the only LCHS squad with its eye on a championship. As the football players enjoy a bye week, the basketball team was gearing up for a shot at the region title and a set of state rings.
"Our No. 1 goal this year is to win our region," Panther basketball coach Willie Graham said. "That could possibly put us at home for our first two playoff games. That is our No. 1 goal."
Graham said he hopes to carry a varsity squad of 12, but right now is working with seven players and two returning starters from last season, Rion Brown and Jordan McRae.
"We are operating with a skeleton crew right now," he said. "We have a few players that are still playing football so we have seven on the varsity right now and we are doing a lot of floor work with our junior varsity players right now."The coach said once football is over he expects players like Julian Stokes, Shakur Cook, Tucory Rhodes and Marcus Jefferson to come back to the court and see some playing time this season.
"Once we get them back, it will be a matter of getting them in basketball condition," he said. "Most of those guys had significant time on the floor last year, so it’s just a matter of refreshing and reviewing things that we do. But right now we have to work with the seven we got and get them ready for Nov. 20 when we open up against Beach."
The Panthers finished 20-6 overall and 9-3 in Region 3-AAA last season. Although they lost to Washington for the region title, they made it to the second round of playoffs before they were eliminated by Westover.
Graham expects many opponents will focus on his two standout seniors, Brown and McRae. Both committed to universities as high school juniors. McRae committed to Tennessee and Brown committed to the University of Miami.
However, the coach said he has other weapons in his arsenal.
"We have four or five other players who haven’t had the notoriety they’ve had but I feel are just as talented," he said. "Probably the best true shooter is Greg Richardson. We hope that he gets some attention this year. He’s done a lot of work on his ball handling this summer so that is strong. We have Chris Riley coming back and he is a combination of Rion and Jordan. He has a quickness to attack the basket and shoots the ball well from the outside. Those two give us a lot more options."
In fact, the coach said the one thing they lack is a tall post player.
"This class came in wanting to add banners to our gym and looking to do better," the coach said. "Their goal is the final four. Our ultimate goal is to win one at a time. Win our region and push as far as we can at state. I like our chances."