BOYS BASKETBALL: MIDLANDS PREP HOOPS PREVIEW

November 17, 2013 

Javis Howard looks to lead Irmo to a repeat this season.

JEFF BLAKE — jblake@thestate.com Buy Photo

PLAYERS TO WATCH

MARCUS STROMAN, KEENAN

Nationally ranked future Gamecock guard drives the Raiders’ offense with strong ball-handling, accurate long-range shooting and excellent footwork.

JAVIS HOWARD, IRMO

The 6-foot-8 power forward/ center is as aggressive as he is effective. He gives the Yellow Jackets the edge in rebounding.

BRANDON STROMAN, LOWER RICHLAND

The Diamond Hornets’ 6-3 shooting guard can go strong to the hoop, rebound and block shots, in addition to his perimeter game.

KEITH WORKMAN, FAIRFIELD CENTRAL

The Griffins’ senior shooting guard lends size and power to Fairfield Central’s perimeter game, along with 20 points per game.

XAVIER HILL, IRMO

The Yellow Jackets’ senior guard has a nice outside shot, but his ability to feed the post is crucial to Irmo’s attack.

TEVIN MACK, DREHER

The four-star shooting guard can direct the Blue Devils attack and also is a tough defender.

JORDAN BRUNER, SPRING VALLEY

Already a standout on recruiters’ watch lists, Bruner can up his profile this season as the 6-8 sophomore adds strength and control to his game.

THOMAS KNIGHT, WHITE KNOLL

The 6-6 sophomore forward is expected to lead the Timberwolves’ effort with a big inside presence. He’ll need to score and rebound to lift White Knoll.

SEVENTH WOODS, HAMMOND

Nationally ranked sophomore does it all, but scoring and rebounding are his forte.

TEAMS TO WATCH

IRMO: Coming off a perfect season, the Yellow Jackets have lost a lot from last season’s state title squad. But the losses affect their bench more than their play on the hardwood. They have a solid post presence in Javis Howard and Jevante Gross, and with Khalil Small and Xavier Hill on the wing, the Yellow Jackets have a lot of experience returning. Guided by coach Tim Whipple, Irmo’s court smarts will be as important as its physical post play and accurate long-range shooting.

LOWER RICHLAND: The Diamond Hornets have been a team on the cusp, and this season is no different. But coach Willie Thomas’ team has some obstacles to overcome — notably the loss of guards Spencer Taylor and Marcus Edmond and big men Vincent Hicklin and Alonzo Gibson. All eyes are on senior forward Brandon Stroman as he attempts to lead the Hornets’ reloaded squad.

KEENAN: Led once again by guard Marcus Stroman and a solid crew of returnees, the Raiders are on course for another deep postseason run. The Raiders can count on Gamecock signee Stroman, along with seniors Sam Harmon and Chris Bernard. Keenan is stacked with speed and scoring capability with depth at guard. If the Raiders have a weakness, it’s in the post — forwards Harmon, Javontae Davis and Lemarcus Johnson will have to be physical and smart to give Keenan the kind of rebounding power it had last season.

RIDGE VIEW: Stopped in the third round of last season’s tournament, the Blazers keep pushing forward this season. Ridge View has a fairly strong schedule and a tough region and could emerge as a contender in February. Coach John Combs works to keep this squad settled and focused, giving the Blazers a mental edge in tough matches.

CARDINAL NEWMAN: Coming off the SCISA Class 3A title, the Cardinals look to avoid a letdown. They have three returning starters to lead the effort. John Ragin, Zakki Parker and Joseph Armstrong will have to take on a bigger role in offensive production. The trio combined for 27 points per game last season, the same amount of production from the two seniors the Cardinals lost. The Cardinals believe in putting up shots, which even with a field goal percentage of 35, gives them an advantage. Dominating SCISA this year will take extra effort at the boards, and the Cardinals will need to convert second-chance buckets.

Akilah Imani Nelson

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