Packed gyms, high expectations, the role as the hunted – those are all key components of every Laney boys basketball season.
But this one is going to be a little different. All those aspects are intensified as the Wildcats attempt to defend their Georgia High School Association Class AA state title — their first – with a talented but rather young group.
“We have the recipe for a state championship,” Laney coach Jerry Hunter said. “The ingredients are there.”
Gone are players such as Shaquille Cook, Daniel Harris, Glenn Rodriguez and Jammie West, four playmakers who all scored in double figures in the 67-53 win against Manchester in the Class AA state final.
This year, Hunter and his staff have a roster that has only three seniors and three juniors.
Point guard Mike Lewis, one of the seniors, understands he’ll have an increased role this season. But not only will he direct the offense, he’ll also teach.
Lewis already has a ring, but he’s not resting or relaxing as a satisfied player.
“Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard,” Lewis said. “Everybody wants to work hard and get a ring.”
Lewis plans on helping the younger players maximize their talents as they prepare to duel in Region 3-AA. The region has two subregions, with Harlem, Screven County and Westside joining with Laney in one. Dublin, East Laurens and rival Josey make up the other subregion.
With the inexperience, there may be some early troubles even with those lofty expectations. But Laney, the area’s first GHSA boys basketball state champion since Glenn Hills in 2007-2008, knows starting out as one of the favorites for the crown doesn’t matter.
For a program that began just 2-2 a year ago before finishing 28-4, it has proven it’s all about the conclusion.
“They embrace it, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Hunter said about being a top contender again. “You have to finish No. 1.”