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Knight to take command of L-E’s basketball fortunes

Posted: July 18, 2013 1:36 p.m.
Updated: July 22, 2013 5:00 a.m.

If you are going to have a rebuilding year, why not go all the way.
When the 2012-13 high school basketball season came to a close, the Lugoff-Elgin boys’ squad knew they would lose eight seniors --- including all five regular starters --- to graduation in May. What the Demons did not anticipate was that  head coach and former L-E basketball and football standout, Derek Belton, would be leaving with the fourth-year players.
Several weeks after the season came to a close, Belton decided to give up his basketball duties in order to devote more time to being with his family. He will stay on at L-E as an assistant football coach.
Belton’s decision caught his assistant coach, Garrett Knight, a bit off guard. While Knight had heard Belton talking about hanging up his hoops-coaching whistle, he thought it was just his boss joking around.
“I was a little surprised,” Knight said. “Derek had been hinting around about it, but it was a surprise to me when he put in his resignation in the spring.”
Belton was coming off his best campaign after three years at the helm of his alma mater. Following a one-win 2011-12 season, the Demons registered nine victories this past winter including a 49-40 win over Region 4-4A foe Blythewood.
The departure of Belton came on the heels of L-E’s having lost head wrestling coach Evan Moxie to Cardinal Newman. That led to the school’s athletic director, Scott Jones, to open up his second coaching search of the spring. Just as the school did in wrestling in promoting assistant coach Peter Hemingway to the top spot, Jones and his committee went the same route on the hardwood in naming Knight as the new basketball coach.
A 2004 graduate of Central High School in Pageland, Knight is a 2008 graduate of the University of South Carolina. While a student in Columbia, he cut his coaching teeth as an assistant football and baseball coach at Heathwood Hall in his junior and senior years.
Upon graduation, Knight took an assistant coaching position at North Central High school in 2008 and, for two years, was an assistant football, basketball and baseball coach for the Knights before moving across the Wateree River. This will be his fourth season as a teacher/coach at L-E. He joined Belton’s staff as an assistant for the 2010-11 season.
Knight’s hiring was approved by the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees in late June. Since then, he has been trying to make up for lthe ost time when the program did not have a full-time head coach.
“Getting the job at the end of June,” Knight said while overseeing a group of Demon student-athletes in the weight room last week, “it was tough to get things set up, especially in the summer. We’ve been playing catch-up and now, with this year ‘round thing, we have to find a way for our guys to work on basketball in the fall while I’m coaching football.
“We do have some issues, but we’re going to try and make the most out of it.”
Among the issues which Knight and the Demons had to deal with was not being able to attend a summer team camp ast USC without a head coach on board. To help soften the blow, L-E has staged summer workouts which Knight first oversaw as the interim coach before being elevated into the seat at the top of the bench.
“We worked out in June,” Knight said of off-season practice sessions. “We just want to keep a basketball in these boys’ hands all year long. You have these schools, like Irmo, who have one-sport athletes and who play basketball all year long.
“It’s important for our kids to have a basketball in their hands as much as possible because we’re going to need every second of practice that we can get.”
The “year ‘round thing” of which Knight talked about is a new provision which allows winter sports teams to be able to practice from June 1 through Aug. 1 and, then again, from Sept. 7 through Oct. 19. Following the state championship games in March, basketball teams are allowed to practice again through May 31, 2014.
As an assistant football coach, Knight’s fall season will be devoted to his working with that sport. Finding an assistant coach to work with his players when he is on the practice field is one of his many priorities.
Once on the court, the Demons must try and find a way to replace their five top scorers including Bobby Gary, Dre Scott and Michael Sumpter. A quartet of rising senior returnees --- center Jamerious Summerson and guards Ben Galloway, Kevin Fields and Stacey Patterson --- all saw time in backup roles a year ago and should see extended stints on the floor next season.
Knight also is encouraged about some of the players from last year’s junior varsity squad which played well, especially in the non-conference portion of their schedule. The new coach anticipates receiving contributions from rising junior Daniel Quattlebaum and rising sophomores Vincent Stevenson and Aldreacio Wells as they move to the varsity.
Do not discount a member of last year’s successful Lugoff-Elgin Middle School squad making a run at a spot on the varsity roster, either, as freshmen.
“I’ve been very impressed with these rising ninth graders who are in here now and practicing with us,” he said. “It’s very encouraging with the (Elliott) Campbell kid and Tyrese Elm coming up. These younger boys are going to make an impact and, hopefully, Lugoff-Elgin basketball will get back to being on the right track in the next couple years.”
What the Demons will not be, come late this fall, will be experienced, due to the heavy hits leveled by graduation. They will also be a tad shorter than their predecessors. Knight said he is trying to tweak Belton’s system to accommodate the talent he will have coming in for 2013-14.
“We’ve been a team that has tried to run and gun the past couple years. But with our youth issue, we’re going to try and play more clock management,” he said of changes as to the style of play. “We’re really going to try and enhance our defense. We’re going to try and use a different defensive approach this year to try and keep people from getting into the paint against us.
“We don’t have a lot of height so, we’re really going to have to work on our defense and try and slow the game down and try to get people to play our game so they don’t run up the score on us.”
Playing in a region which includes defending state champion Irmo as well as Spring Valley and Richland Northeast --- which boast of Division I recruits --- the Demons have struggled to keep up with the top teams in the circuit. Knight does not expect L-E to be playing for a conference crown comes next winter, but said he anticipates his team becoming more competitive in the near future.
“It’s going to be tough going into region play, no matter who you have playing for you,” he said. “I’m not looking to win a region championship this year, by any means. But over the next couple years, we hope to get back on the right track.”
Knight said rebuilding the Demons’ hoop fortunes will be a process, as opposed to an overnight overhaul. He anticipates there being bumps in the road early on, but said getting to where the program needs to be will be a bit smoother due to his having a solid rapport with the players he has worked with on the varsity and some on the junior varsity level.
And as for any unknown player(s) who could make an impact come this season? Garrett Knight said he is playing the waiting game until the team convenes for pre-season tryouts/practice in November.
 “You never know who’s going to come out in the fall,” he said with a smile. “We’re very young. We only have a few (rising) seniors coming back who actually played last year. You never know how it will work out.
“We may have to take some lumps early with our young boys; it may be tough early. Hopefully, though, we’ll get on the right track.”

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