Former Dougherty star Arabian Williams, above, joins the Albany Tech men’s basketball team this season as one of the many new faces who will fill out a new starting five. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — Sylvester Patterson remembers watching Arabian Williams light up the scoreboard while he was at Dougherty High, and he heard all about the point guard punishing high school opponents with his speed and shooting.
So Patterson knew Williams was good.
“I just didn’t know he was this good,” said Patterson, who is entering his sixth season as head coach of the Albany Tech men’s basketball program.
Williams is part of an entirely knew starting five for the Titans, who begin their season today at home against Brewton-Parker’s junior varsity team. And Patterson believes his new starting point guard is just the ingredient Albany Tech needs to take its program to the next level.
“He can flat out play,” Patterson said Wednesday. “He has really stepped it up in the preseason. He is one of those kids who really lives in the moment, and he is a true leader. He had some big games (in high school), and he has a big name around Albany. They love the guy. He is just a good athlete.”
Williams, a 2010 Dougherty grad, played his freshman season at Lawson State Community College (Ala.), but now he’s back in Albany and returns with that same up-tempo, catch-me-if-you-can speed that he left with.
“That’s my whole style,” Williams, a former Herald Super 6er, said about pushing the ball up the court. “Since high school, coach (Donald) Poole was a great coach and he taught me my advantage over everybody was to get the ball and take off running and make them run with you.”
The Titans will be able to run, but they also have size.
Nouhoum Boucoum, a 6-foot-10 freshman from New York, will be the starting center, while 6-7 Deandre Harper, a true freshman from Douglasville, starts at power forward and 6-9 Lafonzo Smith, a true freshman from Waynesboro, Miss., brings some size off the bench.
Colquitt County’s Antwon Tuff will start at shooting guard and will be joined in the backcourt by former Bainbridge star Melzie Johnson.
Albany Tech’s bench is smothered with talent from Southwest Georgia, including Monroe’s Anthony Mackey, Randolph-Clay’s Terry Brown, Early County’s Escondarious Yarbrough and Colquitt County’s Luis Ballenilla.
Former Westover star Brandon Hudson is also on the roster but will be redshirted this season.
Four of last year’s starters took their talents to four-year schools, including former Westover star and Herald Player of the Year Terrance Noel, who signed with Miles College. Former Worth County star Jamorris Gaines signed with Lee University (Tenn.), former Terrell County star Robert Ellis inked with Edward Waters College (Fla.) and Harrison Gibson is playing at Claflin University.
The Titans finished 16-6 last season and fourth in Region XVII, but Patterson said it will take some time for this year’s squad to find that same success.
“We have really good chemistry, but we aren’t tough enough right now,” he said. “I think it will take us some time to jell before conference play.”
Williams agreed that it’s taking time to find a rhythm with his new teammates.
“There are going to be a lot of growing pains, but we know we have to stick together,” Williams said. “We are one team with one goal. Our main focus is to just win our conference.”
LADY TITANS YOUNG BUT TALENTED HEADING INTO SEASON: Albany Tech women’s basketball coach Kenneth Williams believes his 2012 roster is loaded with plenty of potential.
In fact, he called this year’s Lady Titans the most talented group in the four-year history of the program.
But as the Lady Titans prepared at practice Wednesday for today’s season opener at 7 p.m. against Brewton-Parker’s junior varsity team, Williams said that his squad has work to do before that talent turns into success.
“Only three out of our 15 players return from last year,” he said. “It’s going to be tough early. We are trying to learn the offense and trying to learn what we are supposed to do on defense. It’s going to be a slow process.”
Sophomore Lashay Lettingham is the only returning starter from last season, and the 5-10 guard agrees that her team has plenty of room to improve.
“We are still trying to get a feel for how everybody plays,” said Lettingham, a graduate of Williams T. Dwyer High School in Port St. Lucie, Fla. “High school is a different tempo as far as speed and footwork goes. The freshmen are trying to get up to speed, but I think we can get pretty good when we get that down.”
Out of the 12 players gone from last year’s team — which finished 16-13 and lost its Region XVII Tournament opener as the No. 7 seed — none is missed more than 6-2 center Bianca Fennessee, a Chicago native who is now playing at Division II Washburn University (Kan.).
“We are going to miss (Fennessee), who was highly recruited and led the nation in blocked shots and rebounds,” Williams said. “She is going to definitely be missed. Hopefully we can have somebody step up and fill her position.”
Gabrielle Christopher, a 5-11 sophomore from Edison, will try to fill those shoes as Albany Tech’s starting center, while Valdosta native Kendra Patrick will play power forward, Valdosta State transfer Alisha Crawford will be the shooting guard and Thomasville’s Kierrica Spencer will run the point.
“I think we have one of the best backcourts in the region right now at the 1, 2 and 3. We should be pretty solid there,” Lettingham said.
Williams agreed that his team’s guard play will be its strength.
“We are going to be more guard-oriented this year. To be honest, this is probably the best group of guards I have had since I have been here,” Williams said. “Once the freshmen get some minutes under their belt then we will be fine. We definitely have potential. All around, I probably have more talent this year than I have ever had. It’s just going to come down to how they jell.”