After some severe struggles the last three years, Marlboro Academy has turned to a familiar face to resurrect the boys’ basketball program.
"There are several challenges in getting us back on solid ground. The students lack confidence and are having to learn to play with structure," said Hampton Hubbard.
Hubbard played for a state championship when he was a student at the Academy in the 1970s. He later taught and coached at the Academy and in the Marlboro County School District.
After retiring from public education, Hubbard rejoined the faculty of the Academy. Last spring, soon after it was announced that the previous coaching staff would not be returning, Hubbard agreed to take the reins.
"Before, there wasn't a lot of defense being played and not much emphasis placed on rebounding. We are in the process of changing that," said Hubbard.
The Dragons have worked on both man-to-man and zone defenses, which they will employ depending on the competition.
"If we can match up with an opponent physically and have an advantage in quickness, we will press and play man defense. There are some games where we won't be able to match the opponents' quickness and ability, so we'll pack it up under the basket in a zone," said Hubbard.
He has been pleased with frontcourt starters Will Dawkins and Josh Frye. Dawkins is one of just a few players who saw considerable playing time last season. At 6'3", the sophomore is the tallest member of the squad.
Frye was a member of the junior varsity last year. The previous run-and-gun scheme didn't work to his advantage but Hubbard's more structured attack suits his skills. He led the team with 20 points in their season opening win over Maranatha Christian last Thursday.
Alec Braswell and Hunter Newton are also returning players. Braswell is the lone senior on the squad and will start at one guard spot. Newton will play at both guard and forward.
Jackson Quick and Lake Day were the leading scorers on the junior varsity the last two seasons. Now as juniors, they will be counted on to add offensive punch. Quick will also be the primary ball handler.
Dawson Williams, a sophomore, will add depth in the frontcourt, as will Blake Dean. Aiden Talbert will help out as a guard.
"Really, other than Will, everybody is pretty much the same size, about six feet tall," said Hubbard. "That lack of height will be a bit of a challenge that we will have to overcome with hustle and technique," said the coach.
The Dragons tipped off the season with a 48-44 victory last Thursday over Maranatha. Dawkins joined Frye in double-figures, scoring 10 points. Quick had 8, Newton 4, Braswell 3, Day 2 and Dean 1.
"We didn't shoot very well, only 28 percent. However, we had 21 steals, which allowed us to take a lot of shots," said Hubbard.
Quick had 5 steals and led the team in rebounding with 9. Braswell had 4 steals and 6 rebounds.
The Dragons trailed 23-19 at the half but out-scored their guests 21-10 in the third quarter to take control.
"This is a young team but I think we can be competitive with most of the teams in our conference," said Hubbard.
Tuesday evening, the Dragons hosted Emmanuel Christian of Hartsville. Marlboro jumped out to an 18-0 lead in the first five minutes of action.
The Dragons' offense cooled off and Emmanuel finally got going but Marlboro's lead was too much to overcome. Marlboro improved to 2-0 with the 61-38 win.
Quick led the offense with 14 points. Frye added 10, Newton 9, Dawkins 8, Talbert 7, Williams 4 and Dean 4.
Day scored 7 before a third quarter injury to his right knee. The junior was in severe pain and had to be transported for medical care.
The Dragons are scheduled to participate in a jamboree beginning Thursday and will host Northwood Temple of Fayetteville next Tuesday.
The junior varsity Dragons tipped off the season with a 44-30 defeat at the hands of Maranatha last Thursday. Ford Munnerlyn led the Marlboro offense with 8 points.
The team got their first victory Tuesday, defeating Emmanuel, 37-22. Garrett Wiggins scored 9 points. Reid Edwards and Trey Smith each had 8.