LAURINBURG — Scotland High’s boys basketball team ended Thursday’s practice with a short intrasquad scrimmage — white jerseys against grey jerseys. The white squad won, and they avoided extra conditioning by doing so.
But when the grey team lined up on the baseline for a set of down-and-backs, one white jersey toed the line with them. Senior guard Garrett McRae, visibly tired after a long week of drills and scrimmages, made sure his teammates didn’t run alone.
It was an impressive display of leadership by McRae. Head coach Matt Justin has come to expect such things from his starting point guard, both on and off of the court.
“Garrett has made a huge leap forward this year,” Justin said. “It’s going to show on the court.”
McRae and senior guard C.J. Settles will be the leaders of Scotland’s boys basketball team while the Scots wait for a handful of key players to wrap up their time on the football field. Both athletes were among the team’s top contributors as juniors.
“It makes a huge difference having two senior guys who played a ton last year,” Justin said. “They got all the playing time you could ask for as juniors. They were kind of thrown to the wolves.”
Three established varsity players — Bruce Wall, Kris McLean and Trey Graham — will likely be in Scotland’s starting lineup after the football season concludes. There are several other football players who could fill varsity roles as well.
Those players will bring some needed size to Scotland’s rotation.
“We’re certainly going to be the smallest team I’ve had since I’ve been here, at the start,” Justin said. “And I’ve had some small teams at Scotland. We haven’t had much height.
“That’ll change once we get the football guys. We’ll have a little bit of height.”
The Scots had a tough 0-7 start to the season last year. Avoiding that early slump will be important as the Scots prepare to take on a challenging Sandhills Athletic Conference slate.
“They know that you want to go into conference with some wins under your belt, with a little bit of confidence, and not be in a position where you’ve got to finish first or second to make the playoffs,” Justin said. “Ultimately, that’s the kids’ goal. They want to make the state playoffs, and non-conference will play a huge part in that.”
Scotland had two opportunities to grab a playoff bid late last season, but they fell short in critical games against Richmond and Pinecrest.
In order to avoid falling into that predicament again, the Scots will need to utilize their strengths. Right now, one of their main strengths is speed.
“Our best bet is to push the ball,” Justin said. “We have some speed. We have some quickness. … We want to get it out, make or miss, and try to push the basketball if it’s there, and see if we can get some easy baskets in transition.
“We certainly have some speed and quickness in our group. We just need to take advantage of it better.”
Brandon Tester | Exchange file photo Scotland’s Garrett McRae guards Pinecrest’s Bradlee Haskell (3) in a game last season. McRae and guard C.J. Settles will take on big leadership roles for Scotland this year.