Winning the Class 4A state championship was great for the Myrtle Beach High football program and great for the school.
It wasn’t great for the boys basketball team.
The Seahawks began practicing around Halloween, and the football team won the state championship on Dec. 7 to conclude a season that got pushed back a week because of a hurricane and flooding in the state.
So the Seahawks practiced for more than a month and played four games before four football players – J.B. Favorite, Da’Ron Finkley, T.J. Auston and Austin Randall – were available to join the team. Three players are participating in the Beach Ball Classic this week and Randall will join the team in 2019.
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“We’re kind of used to it now,” Myrtle Beach coach Craig Martin said. “We’ve been there 10 years and every year they’re making a run and we’re always getting football players late. We’re kind of accustomed to it, but at the same time it changes what you’re doing in practice, your conditioning, it changes your rotation, you’re adding kids and the dynamic of the team starts to change.
“But it’s always good to have those kids back. It brings athleticism and toughness, and coming from a state championship team, all they know is to win, and when they get here they kind of bring that with them.”
Favorite, a defensive end in football and center/power forward in basketball, had an additional week of football with the North-South All-Star game, so he didn’t join the team until the week of Dec. 17.
“It’s a different-paced game, different sport, so you just try to transition,” Favorite said. “The hardest thing is conditioning. You’ve got to get back in shape, have to be able to run down the court. Once you get that it’s really nothing because the offense is easy to pick up on, we’ve been running it for so long.”
The players also have to change gears mentally and get back into the early part of a season after playing for the ultimate prize.
“Mentally it’s a little tough but I’m pushing through it, I’m fighting,” said Favorite, who has the remnants of a knee injury from football season. “I remember after the state championship game in the locker room, Da’Ron told us, ‘Man, the way I feel I don’t even want to go play basketball.’ But he was like, ‘You know we’ll be at practice next Monday.’ ”
One benefit to the early-season absence of the football players is it builds the team’s depth because a number of reserve players get more early-season playing time.
With the additions there has been a subtraction as 6-2 junior Darius Hough was averaging more than 15 points per game but has missed the past three weeks with an injury and will likely be out a couple more weeks. At full strength, Martin believes the Seahawks can be pretty good.
“We’re blessed with some pretty good athletes,” Martin said. “I think we’re going to be real competitive, and I think our league is the toughest in 4A with Wilson, Hartsville, Darlington, Marlboro County and North Myrtle Beach, those teams are pretty darn good.”
The Seahawks (7-6) conclude their Beach Ball Classic against Christ the King (N.Y.) at noon Monday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.
The Beach Ball Classic was supposed to have more talent.
But after four of this year’s teams were invited, they lost star players to transfers.
North Crowley (Texas) lost UCLA commit Grant Sherfield to Sunrise Christian in Kansas after he averaged 24.1 points and 4.2 assists last season to help the Panthers go 31-6.
North Mecklenburg (N.C.) lost Louisville commitment Jaelyn Withers to Cleveland Heights, and North Little Rock lost Moses Moody to Montverde Academy in Florida.
Christ the King (N.Y.) lost center Kofi Cockburn to Oak Hill Academy. The Royals were still set at the position with talented 6-11 sophomore Moussa Cisse, but he is not playing in the tournament due to injury.
North Little Rock has handled the loss of a star player as well as anyone. The Wildcats are 12-2 and will play in the third-place game at 5:30 p.m. Monday against North Crowley.
“It helps that I’ve got three or four seniors that are real big,” North Little Rock coach Johnny Rice said. “The biggest thing we’re missing with Moses was he was a real leader. He worked hard, was a great kid. The leadership stuff is what we’re growing into.”
Rice remained in frequent contact with Moody and his family after the high school season but was unable to convince the player to stay. “I tried every angle I could think of,” Rice said.
He figured he’d need balanced scoring and has received it, with four or five players in double figures on many nights. The team has also added Shawn Fudge, who has played well after missing last season with a medical condition.
“We went through phases,” Rice said. “There were stretches early in the year where we had kids looking for Moses because he did a whole lot, then we had kids that wanted to try to be Moses that couldn’t do that. We struggled some early in the year on that fact.
“Now everyone is starting to lock into what they’re good at and they’re all doing it together. For us to be successful it’s got to be a group effort. We don’t have one guy to take it over . . . anymore.”