USC Salkehatchie Athletics

New-look USC Salkehatchie Basketball

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Photo by DREW TRIPP
EYES ON THE PRIZE
Indians’ freshman Khalil Davis sizes up the distance to the rim as he goes for a layup in a scrimmage last week.

The quest for a return to Hutchinson, Ks., and the NJCAA National Championship Tournament has begun for the USC Salkehatchie men’s basketball team.

Last season marked the first time in school history that any team, not only basketball, reached the national title tourney for Salkehatchie.

If the Indians, who began fall practice three weeks ago, are to repeat their historic accomplishment from the 2012-13 season, however, they’ll have to pull it off with a whole new style and many new faces, according to head coach Travis Garrett.

“This year’s team will be very different from standpoint that we have a lack of size,” said Garrett, now in his eighth year leading the team. “But, what we lack in size, we’ll make up for with a lot of quickness.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who can make plays in transition and who’ll allow us to speed up the game. We’ll be able to press, trap and play a real up-tempo style of basketball this season. If anything, we should be a lot of fun to watch.”

Garrett says scoring should be no problem for the Indians as the season goes along and the players get into a rhythm running the new offense. He’s concerned, however, about defense.

Salkehatchie lost its two best post players this offseason when sophomore power forward Montel Baines graduated, moving on to Armstrong Atlantic, and freshman center Cory Thomas transferred to Lynn University, as well as Antonio Manns.

Baines averaged nearly a double-double per game for scoring and rebounding over two seasons at Salkehatchie. While he wasn’t a prolific scorer playing behind Baines, Thomas’s 6-foot-8 frame made him a game-changer in the paint, grabbing 8 rebounds per game. Manns, at 6-5, 230, could play the post, but was a capable shooter as well, averaging 8.2 points per game.

Garrett signed eight players in the offseason, but failed to get a prototypical center or power forward type. Brandon Jones, a 6-7 guard from Florence for whom Garrett has had high praise, has the height but has a skill set suited for the perimeter.

Along with the eight freshmen he brought in, Garrett also got back the services of shooting guard Jimmy Givens, who took a one-year hiatus from the team while attending to personal issues after averaging 14 points per game for the Indians in 2011-12, helping them achieve the most wins in team history that season.

“Brandon Jones is going to be an outstanding player for us,” Garrett said. “And Jimmy, he’ll get us 15-20 points a night if he can get on a roll shooting the ball.”

Garrett also expects quality contributions from DeQuan Grant and Kahlil Davis, two Charleston-area players.

Salkehatchie has played in five preseason scrimmages now since starting practice at the beginning of October, including three this weekend in the CB Hoops Jamboree in Atlanta.

The Indians went 1-2 in the tournament, losing to Cleveland (Tn.) State Community College, 45-48, and to Daytona Beach Community College, 56-50, before defeating Montlow (Tn.) State Community College, 68-48, in its last game.

“This weekend was about getting some of these younger kids to understand that they’re playing at a different level now,” Garrett said. “This is not high school basketball anymore. I’m trying to get them to throw away their bad habits and pick up the good habits they’re going to need to be successful at this level of competition.”

Salkehatchie will scrimmage Armstrong Atlantic this weekend, and opens it season Nov. 1 on the road against Atlanta Metropolitan State College.

By DREW TRIPP sportsdesk@lowcountry.com

ColletonToday.com

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