High School Sports

Camden boys set to defend 3A title

Camden's Josh Council is the reigning Region 6-3A player of the year.
Camden's Josh Council is the reigning Region 6-3A player of the year.

Coach Ron McKie's Camden High boys team made history last season, bringing home the Bulldogs' first basketball state championship in 51 years.

With three starters, including two players who are now playing college basketball, having graduated, the task appears difficult as Camden tries to repeat.

Of course, even McKie agrees that few expected his team to be a state champion when the season began last year. So he is hopeful of another surprise.

"We've got a good nucleus coming back," McKie said. "I can't say we'll go all the way again. But we'll be disappointed if we don't make a good run."

Guards Evrik Gray (Francis Marion) and Jay Council (Belmont Abbey) have taken their games to the college level, leaving some holes to fill. They combined for 33 points, with Gray scoring 23, in Camden's 77-62 victory against Greer in the Class 3A title game last March at the Colonial Life Arena.

Of course, the main returning player topped them both. Josh Council tallied a game-high 34 points that night as the Bulldogs (24-2) won their first state basketball championship since Elsenhower was in the White House in1958.

The 6-foot-5 Josh Council, the reigning Region 6-3A player of the year, averaged 18.4 points per game last season. McKie hopes he is in position to score even more this season.

"We've got to find some more people who can score," McKie said. "Josh has been getting everyone's attention, and rightfully so. Hopefully, some more kids will step up. Our other kids will have to step up and show they can score too or we'll see junk defenses."

Council played quarterback on Camden's football team the past two seasons. His backfield mate both years, running back SaVonn Wingate, figures to be along side him in basketball season as well. A 6-2, 215-pound junior center, Wingate averaged 13.4 rebounds a game last season.

McKie said Wingate's role will be expanded. In addition to his power in the post, Wingate will look to step out and hit a few jump shots.

"We're going to give him the opportunity to score from the outside," McKie said.

Two other experienced players who will have to play more important roles are seniors T.J. Perkins and Terry Lee. Both stand 6-feet tall.

"They will have to look for their shots more and not be role players like last year," McKie said.

The S.C. Basketball Coaches Association voted Camden No. 5 in the preseason Class 3A poll. While defending champions traditionally find themselves closer to the top of the preseason rankings, McKie has no quibble.

"That's pretty fair," McKie said.

Still, the Bulldogs hold the top prize, which means they'll have to be extra ready for every game.

"We know we are going to have the bullseye on our back," McKie said. "Everybody will be up to play us. I understand because you always want to play well against the defending state champions."