Basketball season began in Robeson County on Monday with a packed house for the Lumberton-Fairmont matchup.
Each Robeson County program has had varying levels of success in recent years, and each will be looking to repeat that in some way this season.
Listed alphabetically, here is a preview of each Robeson County boys basketball team.
Fairmont Golden Tornadoes
After missing the playoffs last season, Fairmont (9-4 overall, 5-2 conference last season; 0-2 this season) looks to return to being the successful program of the last decade. They’ll do so with an athletic team.
“One of the things we’re focusing on is trying to move the basketball and play team basketball,” Golden Tornadoes coach Montrell McNair said. “We don’t have a dominant player; we have some players that can be dominant, but we don’t have one dominant player. So we want more of a team-oriented team.”
While Fairmont may not have a dominant player, they have several who will contribute.
“Cam Sweat he can be that player, Savonte can be that shooter,” McNair said. “It’s a young team, freshman. Walker (Chavis) plays hard. On the interior, Jacob (Hunt) and Jamari (Watson), they play good basketball, they’ve just got to learn to play without fouling. We’ve got to play smart. And Tyrus (Morris) is going to be that player for us, that energy guy.”
The Golden Tornadoes lost to Lumberton Monday and Scotland Tuesday, but McNair is confident his team is ultimately heading in the right direction.
“We’ve got a long season ahead, and we’ve got a lot of growing to do, and we’ve got time to grow,” McNair said. “But we’ll get there.”
Lumberton (13-3 overall, 7-1 conference last season; 1-0 this season) does not have entirely the same personnel as the teams that have done to consecutive 4A East Regional finals and were the co-state champions in 2020. But coach Bryant Edwards does have the same standards for this year’s team.
“JB (Brockington) is the only one (on this team) that played significant minutes on that state championship team,” Edwards said. “This is a new team, new environment, but the same culture, same principles. Everything’s already built; we’ve just got to build upon it.”
Brockington, a junior guard, and senior forward Angel Bowie will step into the team’s leadership roles after others have graduated.
“A lot of our growth with this team has been pushing (JB and Angel) to be more vocal, to be more aggressive on the leadership qualities,” Edwards said. “They had to start talking more, they had to start leading by example, they have to take a bigger role.”
Kenston Skipper and Tre Lewis return in the post and Jacob Hammonds and Cobe Oxendine in the backcourt. Key newcomers include guard Patrick McBryde and forward Jaquese Graham.
“They’re going to play hard, they’re going to give us good minutes and they’re going to actually contribute, which makes me excited for this team,” Edwards said.
Purnell Swett Rams
Looking to take a step forward, the Purnell Swett boys basketball team (3-9 overall, 3-7 conference last season; 1-0 this season) got off to a good start with Tuesday’s win over Red Springs. Rams coach Jeremy Sampson hopes his team can continue that level of play long-term.
“(We need to) continue to buy in on the defensive end and play as as unit. Take care of the ball offensively and not make so many mistakes, I think we can surprise some people.”
The Rams have nine seniors on the roster this season. While they struggled last year, they ended the season on a high note by winning two consolation-round games in the uniquely-structured Sandhills Athletic Conference Tournament.
“Last year, it was a crazy year, but we ended on a two-game winning streak,” Sampson said.
Key returners for the Rams include guards Chandler McNeill, Garyen Maynor and Connor Harris and forward Josiah Brooks. Zamarian Davis and Markus Lowry are up from JV full-time.
“Markus is going to be a good addition,” Sampson said. “Zamarian is a quick guard.”
In addition to Josiah Brooks, Sampson expects Riley Brooks to make an impact in the post.
“I think we’ll be not one guy standing out, but a pretty balanced team every night,” Sampson said.
Red Springs Red Devils
Glenn Patterson Jr. takes over for his father at Red Springs (7-5 overall, 6-1 conference last season; 0-1 this season) after Glenn Patterson Sr.’s 25-year tenure as the Red Devils’ head coach.
“The pressure is here of course, taking over after my dad, and trying to get a young backcourt together,” Patterson Jr. said.
That backcourt includes sophomores Kaedon Porter and Kohnner Oxendine and seniors Dylan Dean, Noah Chavis and Johnny Chavis.
“I’m trying to get them to understand the level and the pace we’ve got to play at now,” Patterson Jr. said. “We’re just trying to get these guys to adapt.”
The Red Devils’ shooters struggled Tuesday against Purnell Swett, but should be a key part of the team’s offense.
“We’re still trying to find rhythm. I’ve been talking to our guys, we’ve been getting reps up, but they have to translate it.”
Seniors Henry Buie, Mario Leonard and Jaaron Monroe, junior Carnelius Manning and sophomore Chris Bryant should each contribute in the Red Devils’ frontcourt.
“Now, even though they were there, now they have to adapt to that primary role, making sure they absorb all the pressure, making sure we’re getting our job done on the court getting our guys in place,” Patterson Jr. said.
St. Pauls Bulldogs
Last season, St. Pauls (14-1 overall, 7-1 conference last season) was eliminated from the playoffs due to COVID-19 protocols before the second round. That, the the success of another team on campus, are motivating factors for this year’s team.
“We’ve got stuff left on the table that we’ve got to go conquer,” Bulldogs coach Corey Thompson said. “Our guys are motivated, and especially with our season, after the success our football team is having, they’re seeing that yes we can do it here at St. Pauls.”
Key returners include guards Jeyvian Tatum, last season’s Three Rivers Conference Player of the Year, Josh Henderson and Shaun Emanuel and forward Marcus Galbreath.
“Not only are (Tatum and Henderson) really good players, but they’re also really good teammates as well,” Thompson said. “They do a really good job encouraging, getting their teammates going, because they know they can’t do it all themselves.”
Newcomers that will have an impact include Elijah Blanding, Lukus Osborne and Cameron Revels in the frontcourt.
“Just as important as Josh and Jeyvian are, those four guys are very important too,” Thompson said.
St. Pauls opens its season at Lumberton on Dec. 7.
“We’re excited to have that nucleus of mostly older guys, and younger guys as well, but this will probably be the first time we’ll have a veteran-led team, so I’m very excited about that,” Thompson said.