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Buford High School has gone within its hoops ranks for new leadership in the Yellow Jackets’ varsity basketball program.
Garrett Hammond, who has coached in the Buford High hoops feeder program, is the new Jackets’ boys basketball coach.
Hammond, 30, will take the BHS hoops reigns after former Jackets’ coach Neil Couch left Buford for a position with an area business.
“I’m excited about this opportunity,” Hammond said. “I’m grateful to Mr. Dutton (Butch, BHS principal) and athletic director Mike Wells for this opportunity.
“This is a dream come true. I never knew seven years ago when I came to Buford, I would have this opportunity.”
Hammond, a Lancaster native, has spent the last six seasons coaching in the Buford High School basketball feeder program – five at Buford Middle School and one season as the BHS Junior Jackets coach.
During that time, Hammond has fashioned a 44-43 record, with four winning seasons.
“That was a key factor in our decision to give Garrett this opportunity,” BHS athletics director Mike Wells said. “He knows our program and has coached the majority of the kids who will be with the varsity team next season.
“We feel he can step in and hit the ground running and make a smooth transition in our basketball program. You don’t like to lose a coach, but with Garrett, I feel this is as close to a smooth transition you can get. Garrett is excited and I feel he will do well with our boys basketball program.”
Hammond said he plans to begin work Monday, July 7.
“We have six returnees and all have been in our system,” Hammond said. “We won’t be starting from scratch.”
Hammond said he has somewhat of an idea of what his team make-up will look like in the fall.
His first BHS team will include seniors Garrett Crenshaw, Orantez Coleman and Evan Flynn. The BHS juniors are Druw Rollings, D.J. Stratford, Wade Lambert and Christian Catledge. The BHS sophomores are Rhylee Blackmon and Christian Joplin. The Jackets freshmen include Shylyn Wright and Noah Vincent.
“We won’t have great size, but our quickness will be a factor,” Hammond said. “I’m a firm believer that defense wins.
“We will play pressure defense and force turnovers,” Hammond said. “We will look for the fast break. Defense and hustle will be key components in team concept.
“What we want to do is have our middle school and junior varsity programs running the same system,” he said. “I feel we will be better shooters.”
Hammond noted he was grateful for the groundwork established by Couch, who guided the Jackets for four seasons and earned a postseason bid.
“I appreciate coach Couch,” said Hammond, who worked under Couch when he led the Junior Jackets team. “I thank Neil for giving me guidance in learning the game of basketball.”
Hammond said Kent Deese, who played basketball at Lancaster under former Bruins’ coach Dwayne Hartsoe, will assist with the Jackets varsity.
“Kent was a three-year letterman under coach Hartsoe and was a part of the building process at Lancaster,” Hammond said. “He brings a great deal of experience and knowledge of the game to our program.”
Hammond said he knows the Jackets will be in a competitive league, which includes back-to-back region champion Indian Land.
“Each night in our league is a hardwood test,” he said. “This is a tough region, but our goal is to win the region. We have to play like we’re never satisfied. The key factor for our players is to believe we can win. If we play like we’re never satisfied, we can win.”
Hammond has also served as a prep baseball assistant, working under former Lancaster High School coach Steve Williams, who now guides the USC Lancaster Lancers baseball program.
Hammond, during his tenure at Buford, has also worked as an assistant in the Jackets’ baseball program under Eric Funderburk.
Hammond teaches sixth grade social studies at Buford Middle School. He has a bachelor’’s and master’s degree and is currently completing requirements for his master’s degree in administration.
He recently was married to the former Elizabeth Roach of Lancaster.
u Contact sports editor Robert Howey at (803) 283-1157