HOWARD COUNTY, MD — 2016-17 record: 3-8 county, 9-15 overall
Coach: Andrew Lazzor
Top players: Seniors John Shupe (G), Josh Jones (F) and Pierre Young (F); sophomore Darelle Raymond (G)
What you need to know: While a young Long Reach team struggled to find its rhythm last season, then-juniors Tre Morgan and Chad Brown were two of the best players in the county and a duo that could carry the program as seniors.
But neither player will be available when the Lightning open their season Wednesday against Western Tech. Brown transferred before the season while Morgan suffered a lower leg injury playing football.
Their absences provide second-year coach Andrew Lazzor with the challenge of replacing his largest contributors.
“Inexperience is there, so we’re going to have some growing pains,” Lazzor said, but he hopes the team can overcome some of that with its team speed, quickness and shooting ability.
Despite missing Brown, a second-team All-County selection last season who transferred to St. Frances, Lazzor said the team’s strength will be its guard play. Starting guard John Shupe is back, and Lazzor said senior guard CJ Thompson has made “a ton of progress” after playing sparingly a year ago.
At point guard, the Lightning will likely start sophomore Darelle Raymond.
“He’s pretty talented,” Lazzor said. “Being a sophomore, you’re still going to have some of those sophomore mistakes. But he hustles, he’s a good leader of our team — already a very obvious leader in the locker room as a sophomore — so that’s a real positive as a coach when you got someone stepping up like that.”
To start the season, the frontcourt won’t be nearly as strong without Morgan, a double-double machine last year. The 6-foot-2 forward was the second-leading scorer in the county at 16.4 points per game and finished third in rebounds per game (10.5) en route to making first-team All-County. Lazzor doesn’t have a timetable for Morgan’s return.