29th Lake Murray Tipoff Starts Monday
Basketball season in Lexington has traditionally begun with the annual Lake Murray Tip-Off tournament.
Even in the uncertain year that 2020 has been for local high school sports, this year’s edition is scheduled to start Monday at Lexington High School with a host of Midlands area teams competing at the old and new Wildcat gymnasiums.
WHITE KNOLL TIMBERWOLVES
The Timberwolves will be heading into the season with a new head coach, but he should be familiar to anyone who has followed the team the last 5 years. Derrick Cureton has been an assistant on the White Knoll staff for that long, under previous head coach Devin Liferidge.
“Devin and I had a good relationship,” Cureton said. “Our goals align, so we won’t be changing much this season. We have a good veteran group of seven senior players, so my job will be to not get in their way and let them play.”
That senior-heavy roster will be anchored by Jalen Ray, Cureton said.
“We’ll go as far as he can carry us,” he said.
Add in fellow guard L.J. Currie and the Timberwolves will have a pair of solid ball handlers who can both run the court. Cureton also pointed to Devin Stone and Carlos Richardson, both of whom have gained some size over the offseason, and the 5 new players they’ll be bringing up from last year’s JV squad.
They will need to step up and learn so they can take over from the seniors next season, Cureton said.
Just because they have most of the same players returning, don’t expect to see the same Timberwolves’ play on the court, Cureton said.
“Our tempo should be faster since this group has been playing together for a while,” He said “That’ll let us push it up in transition. On defense, we’ll be switching things up more as well.”
As for the Tip-Off Classic, Cureton is all-in for the benefits it offers the team, the school and Midlands basketball in general.
“It’s good for us to be able to get some live court action early, to get those first jitters out,” he said. “Playing the first two at your own house is also a lot of fun. The team has embraced it, and our goal this year is to close it out with a win—we’ve been close before but haven’t won it all.”
For Lexington 2nd year boys basketball coach Elliott Pope, the key word this season is “improvement.”
The Wildcats finished with a winning season and made the Class 5A playoffs but fell in the first round to eventual Lower State champion and state runner-up Dutch Fork.
“We were a 17 point meltdown against River Bluff from being in a better place in the region,” Pope says. “We did some good things, but there are things to improve on.”
The makeup of this year’s roster puts them in a better place to start.
“We are in a different situation,” Pope said. “This season, we will have 11 players who can come on the court and fill some sort of role in our offense and defense.”
He pointed to senior Noah Adams as well as freshman Cam Scott. Others to watch for include returning starter Keldric Bouknight, sophomore Amari Davis and transfers Swae Young and Zavier Measmer.
Pope is excited about the possibilities with this roster.
“We will be able to do a lot more stuff that’s basketball-specific,” he said. “I think we’ll be in the 70-point range with our scoring average by the end of the season as we will be up and down the floor with the transition game.”
The Lake Murray Tip-Off Classic was the idea of former Lexington coach Bailey Harris, who Pope took over from two years ago now. Harris’ shadow still looms large over the program, but Pope knows he’s walking in Harris’ footsteps.
“It’s something that Coach Harris and I discussed at length when I took over,” Pope said. “Hopefully, I will be here a long time, too and I want to continue the tradition of this tip-off. It’s one of the top 2-3 longest (preseason tournaments) running in the state.”
29TH ANNUAL LAKE MURRAY TIP-OFF SCHEDULE
AT NEW GYM
East Clarendon vs. Batesburg-Leesville 5:30 pm
Lexington vs. Swansea 7 pm
AT OLD GYM
White Knoll vs. Mid-Carolina 7 pm
Summerville vs. Fox Creek 8:30 pm
AT NEW GYM
White Knoll/Mid-Carolina winner vs. Summerville/Fox Creek winner 5:30 pm
East Clarendon/Batesburg-Leesville winner vs. Lexington/Swansea winner 7 pm
AT OLD GYM
White Knoll/Mid-Carolina loser vs. Summerville/Fox Creek loser 7 pm
East Clarendon/Batesburg-Leesville loser vs. Lexington/Swansea loser 8:30 pm
AT OLD GYM
7th place game 10 am
5 th place game 11:30 am
AT NEW GYM
3rd place game 10 am
Championship game 11:30 am