Manning High School boys basketball head coach Rolando Shuler doesn't mince words when talking about his expectations for the Monarchs.
"It's the same every year, to win the region and be one of the last two teams playing for a state …
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"It's the same every year, to win the region and be one of the last two teams playing for a state championship," Shuler said. "If our defense continues to get better and we keep doing the little things right, we'll be one of those teams competing for the title."
Manning is off to a 3-0 start this year heading into today's contest against Calhoun County. The Monarchs are coming off a season in which they finished with an 18-7 record and made it to the second round of the 3A state playoffs before losing to Loris.
Others had expectations for the Monarchs as well. They were ranked No. 7 in the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association 3A top 10 preseason poll.
"We have a senior group and I've coached (a lot) of them for four years," Shuler said. "I'm fortunate to have these guys. They know everything about what we're trying to get done."
So far this season, the Monarchs have won at East Clarendon 77-54, at C.E. Murray, 67-47, and at Scott's Branch, 75-47.
Manning is led by senior guard/forward Darias Williams, who was named one of the top five seniors in 3A by the SCBCA. Other key performers are senior guard Israel Brown, junior guard/forward Leondria Nelson and sophomore shooting guard/small forward Corey Graham.
Shuler is also proud of how the basketball culture has changed at the school.
"We had to change morale, period," he said. "Manning was just a football school. We got back in a good direction and now we're rolling."
Shuler credits the men who preceded him, Jacob Smith and Stevie Ward, in making that transition.
Manning's game against Calhoun County today will be very important to Shuler. He used to play for Calhoun County and head coach Zam Fredrick.
"I've been preparing my whole life for this game," he said. "In 1996, I helped Calhoun County win its first state championship. I've been waiting on this game for a while."
Shuler is confident in his team heading into the game.
"We have a similar system (to them)," he said. "We'll prepare for them the way we prepare for everything and do what we do."
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