LAGRANGE – While the regular season is winding down for the local high-school football teams, it’s time for the basketball teams to get things started.
Monday was the first day basketball teams could hold official practices according to the Georgia High School Association, and a new season is less than a month away.
On the basketball court, there will be one major change on the sideline this season, with Mark Veal taking over as the LaGrange High boys’ coach after long-time coach Mike Pauley stepped down to become the athletic director.
The coaches will remain the same for all of the other teams at Callaway, LaGrange and Troup.
Veal has been Pauley’s right-hand man for the past decade, and now he has moved into the top spot.
“It’s an exciting time,” Veal said when he took the head-coaching job. “We’re so used to working together, we did it for so long, and we still will, just in a different role. I’m excited for him, and he’s excited for me. We’ve had such a good working relationship and friendship, and it’s going to continue on a different note now.”
Veal inherits a team that won a region championship last season and made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
While the Grangers lost some key pieces from last year’s team, including most of their interior players as well as sharp-shooting guard Danterrius Bray, the team could be positioned for another strong season with guards Derieko Smith and LaPerion Perry and post player Mike Hardy returning, although all three of those players are busy with football right now.
Smith was the Region 1-AAAAA player of the year last season, and Perry was also an all-region player.
LaGrange’s girls’ team will also have high expectations this season, with many of the players who helped the team finish second in the region tournament returning.
LaGrange will have to replace five seniors, but there are plenty of talented players on the current roster, including a pair of sophomores in Chnairiea Strozier and Aryan Dozier who started and were standouts last season.
At Troup, the Lady Tigers won a modest seven games last season, but that was a vast improvement on the previous two seasons when the team won four games combined.
The team should be ready to take another big step forward this season with nearly every player returning.
Daushanique Sanders has graduated, and she leaves some big shoes to fill, but everyone else is coming back.
At times last season, there were three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup, and those players held their own.
For the Troup boys’ team, head coach Paul Brewer will have a lot of holes to fill.
The 2014-2015 team was a senior-heavy one, and the two leading scorers, Jamal Wilkerson and Jarius Farrow, are among the players who graduated.
Among the players Brewer will be counting on to produce this season is sophomore Bo Russell, who was one of the top contributors as a freshman.
At Callaway, the boys’ team will look to keep the good times rolling under head coach Terry Hayes.
Callaway has won three consecutive region championships, and it has advanced to the quarterfinals two straight years.
The Cavaliers appear well-positioned to make the 2015-2016 season a memorable one as well.
Callaway does have to replace five seniors, but there are some extremely talented players returning, including Dre Martin, who was the Region 5-AAA player of the year last season.
Among the other returnees are Joe Brown, Ernest Patillo and Braylon Sanders, although Sanders injured his knee playing football a few week ago and will not be playing basketball anytime soon.
Many of Callaway’s top players, including Brown and Martin, are playing football right now, so it will be a while before they can get started with basketball.
Deyano Martin, Callaway’s girls’ coach, will have a bunch of familiar faces back as well.
The Lady Cavaliers made it to the state tournament for the third straight season, and they should be one of the teams to beat in the region with nearly everyone returning.
Senior Monica Jackson will be difficult to replace, but everyone else is coming back, including seniors Tanesha Johnson and Zamari Hardnett, who were all-region players a year ago.
Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports