Pieter Smits’ message to his team is simple: Just get better.
A year ago, the Hanahan Hawks boys basketball team finished fourth in the region and lost in the opening round of the Class AAA playoffs.
“I tell the kids our goal is to have a winning record and host a home playoff game,” said Smits, whose team lost a rash of close games en route to a 7-16 record in 2012-13. “I’m anticipating the start of the season because we’ve got a lot of guys with experience.”
Half their losses last winter were by 10 points or less.
The Hawks bring back six players that got substantial minutes from last season, including senior power forward Marquis Mack. Mack averaged 12 points and nine boards a game last season to earn team MVP honors.
“He’s just an overall athlete,” Smits said. “He’ll give his whole body and soul for you. When you’ve got somebody like that leading the team, and everybody trusts him, it helps us go a long way.”
The Hawks are a bit undersized, with only one player over 6-feet, 1-inch, but have an experienced stable of guards that can help control the tempo of games.
On defense, the goal is to harass opponents into bad shots. On offense, the Hawks use a lot of motion to free up shooters.
Point guards Rodney Keener, a junior, and sophomore Keiontae Dubose are prototypical distributors of the ball and handle pressure well.
Senior wings Justin Pruitt and Wesley Kennedy are savvy and have good outside shots, Smits said. Freshmen guards Trace Chandler and Steven Bennett will be counted on to grow and improve as the year goes on.
Along with Mack, sophomore Tre Smalls starts in the paint. Sophomores Javante McLaurin and Dominique Green give the Hawks depth in the post.
“The guys that are getting significant playing time have been in the system for three years,” Smits said. “They know how I coach and what I expect and it’s been evident over the summer and our first scrimmages. We’ve been successful against a lot of teams.”
The Hawks begin the season Dec. 4 at home versus Ashley Ridge before traveling to Cane Bay Dec. 9. They host Goose Creek and Summerville Dec. 13 and 14.
Hanahan begins region play at home on Jan. 14 against defending league champ Orangeburg-Wilkinson.