The Southampton boys basketball team lost five seniors to graduation who accounted for close to 30 points per game last year—but the Mariners should remain one of the top teams in League VII, thanks to the return of a pair of star players.
Seniors Shaundell Fishburne, a guard, and Lyle Smith, a forward, will be a tandem to be reckoned with this year. Fishburne was an All-County player last year, while Smith was All-League. In fact, Southampton head coach Herm Lamison possesses a triple threat with the return of senior forward Taylor Sanders as well.
Fishburne, an explosive player who can shoot and drive to the hoop, led the team in scoring last year, while Smith is a force down low and led the team in rebounding. Sanders, another tall and powerful player up front, will be a rebounding force as well and can also shoot the ball.
Lamison said he is expecting a lot from the veteran trio. “They have the leadership and just the continuity of having been together for the last four or five years,” he said. “They know each other, and they’re all good friends.”
Lamison added that they’ve become even more physically imposing than they were last year, with Sanders growing an inch or two over the summer, while Smith put on about 10 pounds of muscle, Lamison estimated.
The Mariners have a nice nucleus of six other players surrounding Fishburne. Smith and Sanders who will also contribute on a daily basis. Returning junior Nitauke Williams will be the team’s primary ball-handler, and Lamison has been impressed with his progression. “He’s really shooting the ball well and making good decisions with the ball,” he said. “He’s improved a lot.”
Returning junior Isaiah Johnson gives the Mariners another physically imposing player in the paint, and like Sanders, Lamison said that Johnson has grown a few inches since last season. Sophomore Israel “Izzy” Johnson, his younger brother, is what Lamison calls a “true point guard” and will help out Williams with ball-handling duties.
Senior Thomas Beckman also returns to the team and has improved, Lamison said, while returning senior J.J. Sales should also be strong, coming off a good showing for the team in its summer league, where it went undefeated.
The Mariners also got a pleasant surprise when Naises Fulford moved into the district from William Floyd. The tall player, who stands around 6 feet 3 inches, can play four spots on the floor, according to Lamison, and is a strong all-around player.
Despite returning its top players and having plenty of veteran experience and leadership, Southampton will still have to battle day in and day out in League VII, which Lamison said remains competitive this year. Defending county champion Babylon, who beat the Mariners in the title game last year, is returning most of its formidable front-court players, although it did lose standout guard John Valasquez. Lamison expects Center Moriches and Wyandanch to be competitive playoff teams, as usual, and said that a young but talented Mattituck squad will be a tough out as well. Mercy, Hampton Bays and Port Jefferson round out the league.
Despite what other teams possess, however, Lamison said his team’s goals have been constant year in and year out.
“Our goals don’t change,” he said. “Every year, we want to win a championship. The kids are very motivated, and they want it, so we’ll see how badly they want it.”
Southampton will start the season at Hampton Bays on December 13 at 4:30 p.m.