While taking a photographic journey down memory lane, Lugoff-Elgin head basketball coach Garrett Knight came across a photo of Zarrius Salmond as a freshman. It’s a good thing Knight knew who the player was and what he became by his senior season.
In recalling the story, Knight broke into a laugh.
“I was just telling Z-bo (Salmond) that I saw a picture to him when he was a freshman and that he was a little pudgy,” Knight said. “This past year, he was 6-3, 205 (pounds) and looked good. He was able to elevate and dunked a few balls in a game which is something that I never thought he would be able to do.
“His power around the glass really came through his junior and senior year.”
Salmond smiled when told that Knight had been telling others the story of the stocky freshman who trimmed down, worked himself into shape. The end result was Salmond’s signing a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and basketball pursuits at Erskine College at a ceremony held inside L-E’s Wellness Center.
“I couldn’t dunk last (2017-18) year, but I could this season,” Salmond said with smile as to how things changed for him on and off the basketball court.
The main reason for the turnaround was a room located a few steps behind the table on which he signed his NLI.
“Just being in the weight room; I’ve been there two semesters every year since then,” he said. Right now, I’m comfortable with my weight. I just want to work and get my body more ripped.”
“The biggest thing was foot speed,” Knight said of the changes Salmond made through weight training. “Zarrius finally got in the weight room and started listening to what we were trying to tell him.
Finding players who can dunk a ball is probably not at the top of the priority list for Erskine College head basketball coach Lee Sartor and assistant coach Drew Wallace, but they found that and a lot more to like about Salmond who, this past season led the Demons in scoring (11.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg). Once mutual interest was shown by both parties, the rest was up to Salmond who liked what he saw while on a visit to Erskine’s Due West campus.
“I liked the atmosphere there when I went there to visit. I like the college and me and coach Wallace had a good relationship,” Salmond said of his collegiate choice.
The nephew of former Camden All-State selection and Lander University standout Neil Thomas, Salmond said when he played basketball while he was in middle school with his uncle, Thomas told him “I could probably save my mom some money one day by going to play in college.”
Unlike his uncle, a point/combo guard, Salmond has a larger frame which is more suited to playing the small forward position at Erskine, said his high school coach.
“I’m hoping that he can transition into a three (small forward) for them, if he picks up a little more foot speed. But I can definitely see him playing a power forward-type role for them, too,” Knight said.
“I think he’s going to be a great role player for them. He’s very versatile. That’s what I sold coach Wallace on. Zarrius has played the one through five for us and he has a great basketball IQ.”
Through his conversations with Sartor and Wallace, Salmond believes he will enter the program as a small forward. His work, however, is still in progress.
“I have to get a lot faster and get a better, more efficient jump shot,” he said in assessing how his game translates to the next level.
Knight believes Salmond can succeed at Erskine in the small forward post. The challenge will be for the former Demons to continue working on fine-tuning his game.
“Zarrius has a great shot and a high release point. He can play there if he gets that foot speed going,” he said. “He needs to keep working on the mid-range game and the quickness of his shot. He also has to work on his aggressiveness.
“I know him and I know how he plays, but now, he is going to get in front of some new coaches who don’t him like I do. He has to get more aggressive and more assertive once he gets to college.”
Salmond said he understand what he needs to do in preparing and then playing the game in college. He knows there is going to be a considerable uptick in talent, as well.
“The competition is college is better. Everybody’s leveled out,” he said. “Everybody’s better and has more experience.”
One thing which Knight knows is that in the case of Zarrius Salmond, Erskine College’s gain is definitely Lugoff-Elgin’s loss.
“Zarrius meant everything for us. He was the glue. He was the guy who came to practice every day and did whatever we asked him to do,” Knight said. “He’s been an extremely coachable kid all the way through high school. He brought that stability to the program which is what you needed, especially with the type of year that we had last season.”