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Old guards take on new roles as coaches

Larry Davis laughs and says he's not sure his team wants any part of Melvin Watson's this year.

"We're not quite there yet," Davis said. "We've got some work to do."

Watson laughs even louder and says he knows he wants no part of Davis in a friendly game of one-on-one.

"We definitely can't do that," Watson said. "I can't defend him anymore, no lateral movement."

The two former South Carolina teammates will have a chance to stay close again, as they've taken head coaching jobs with area high schools.

Davis takes over at Lewisville after running his own training business, while Watson takes the head coaching job at South Pointe after five years as an assistant there.

"We're close anyway. Now we're even closer," said Davis.

Of course, the difference between the Class A Lions and the Class AAA Stallions will make it a bit of a challenge, but the former teammates acknowledge their mutual respect for the other's ability to make things competitive.

"If I know Larry, he's going to get them better in a hurry," Watson said.

"You know Melvin's teams are going to be very disciplined, very smart with the ball," Davis echoed.

The two were teammates on South Carolina's 1996-97 SEC regular season champions, the group that entered the NCAA tournament as a two-seed before a shocking first-round loss to Coppin State. But before that upset, the three-guard rotation (which included current Charleston Southern assistant B.J. McKie) was the scourge of the SEC.

Today, the former guards can reminisce about particular games, including a come-from-behind (14 points with five minutes left) win at Florida, and a thrashing of Cincinnati that established them as a legitimate tournament contender.

Davis was the smooth shooter, spotting up for so many 3-pointers after transferring from North Carolina. Watson was the leader on the floor, an extension of coach Eddie Fogler who didn't need shots to run the show. So while they're still learning about each other's teams (They scrimmaged once this spring and will again in the fall.), they have a pretty good idea of what's coming.

"A Larry Davis-coached team, you know they're going to find that one scorer and the offense is going to run through him," Watson said. "Whoever that scorer is, you know he's going to have the green light.

"But he knows the game so well, having been with great coaches at North and South Carolina, so you know that team's going to be smart."

"Melvin was an absolute winner," Davis said. "The thing I respected about him was the way he ran things, the understanding he had of spacing, of defense, the flow of the game, of guys moving without the ball, all the little things. He created so many opportunities for me and B.J. that year.

"That's why I know his team is going to be fun to watch. They're going to play hard, be pesky on defense, and you know they're not going to take bad shots because they'll take after their coach."

Of course, Davis and Watson have other lessons to teach their students this winter. While neither made it to the NBA, both had long careers overseas, spanning the globe and picking up the nuances of the international game as well.

Davis played in South Korea, Spain, Belgium, Israel, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. Watson was in Greece, Cyprus and Belgium. The lessons they learned are ones they plan to pass along.

"Seeing basketball through the world's eyes is definitely different," Davis said. "The skill level is so much higher and you don't realize that when you first go abroad. Here, so many guys just rely on speed and quickness and athleticism, while international players are learning skills at a younger age, ball handling and all the fundamentals.

"That's not a negative against the NBA game, because if you look at what Dirk Nowitzki did in the finals, you know teams value that as well."

Davis admits he has some rebuilding to do at Lewisville, but coming from a Class A background himself - he starred at Denmark-Olar - he thinks he has a common bond with some of his players.

"We've even got the blue and gold in the gym here," he said while reminiscing about his high school days. "I think having come from this kind of background, it helps instill some confidence in our players that we can do some things here."

Notes

NEW AT SOUTH POINTE: At South Pointe, Justin Hardin, Jason Winstead and Michael Zapolnik have joined the varsity football staff. Hardin was head coach at Weddington (N.C.) last year. He will be offensive coordinator and teach physical education. Winstead spent last year at Rock Hill High. He will be defensive coordinator. Zapolnik also comes to South Pointe from Weddington. He will coach the offensive and defensive lines and teach art in the fall.

Robert Myers and Lee Crawford have been added to the junior varsity football staff. Lance Roberts moves to head coach of the 9th-grade team.

The cross country team has added assistant coach Chris Ardis. Allyson Watson will coach girls tennis and will continue working with the girls basketball team in the fall.

NEW AT ROCK HILL: Rock Hill High School has named two new head coaches to fill its vacancies in boys and girls tennis, and girls soccer.

Christine Wesson will coach the tennis teams. Wesson is a science teacher and former cross country and track coach at RHHS. She was an active member of divisional and city winning teams in the Atlanta Lawn and Tennis Association as well as in League Atlanta USTA.

A team meeting and practice will be held on Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the RHHS courts. Players should come prepared with a tennis racket, bottle of water, comfortable exercise clothing and shoes. No student will be allowed to practice without a physical form completed by a physician. Girls grades 7-12 are welcome.

Gary Brannan will coach girls soccer. He is the former president of Discoveries Soccer Club and has coached club soccer for various ages.

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