It’s no secret that Sequoyah basketball isn’t happy with its overall record at the moment, but there are still good things happening with the team that makes them stand out from the crowd.
One of those good things is the development of Joe Grant. The hard-driving senior has upped his production in his final season, and can hurt you from behind the arc or driving to the rim. Grant says that the secret to his success this season is his teammates.
“We have people around us that help us move the ball around,” Grant said. “And I guess I get a lot of touches, but I’m looking to give everyone else the ball too.”
Sequoyah coach Andy Pennington agreed, also citing Grant’s athleticism as a key to greatness.
“It’s his teammates,” Pennington said. “Our speed’s been good, so that’s helped him. But mostly it’s been the spacing. The spacing has allowed him to get to the basket, and it creates long closeouts and when guys have a long closeout on Joe, he can go around him. He’s been able to make some plays, and when he’s getting fouled and getting to the free throw line, he’s able to make the free throws now, about 78 percent.”
Grant is surrounded by a core group of seniors for Sequoyah that help anchor the team. All of those players will be critically important as the Chiefs prepare for a run in the district tournament in just a few weeks.
“It’s not just him; it’s all of them,” Pennington said. “We’ve got about eight that play right now, and if all eight of them will dedicate themselves to playing harder. We’ve got to play defense and rebound. We can hit 20 threes a night, but if we don’t play defense and rebound, we’re not going to beat anybody.”
Grant recognizes the importance of tournament time, but he says the team is focusing on the basics of defense to prepare to challenge for the district crown this season.
“It’s defense, without a doubt,” Grant said. “Basically all we’ve been practicing is defense, defense, defense. So we’re going to be scouting all the teams and seeing their weaknesses and we’re going to try to make that our strength.”
The work hasn’t been easy for Grant and his teammates.
“Getting in better shape, running more, and breaking down the defense,” Grant said. “Trapping and everything, the whole nine yards right there.”
Hard work has paid off for the Chiefs this season, though. Through their “play fast” style implemented by Pennington, the Chiefs force more turnovers and give themselves more opportunities on the offensive end. Those opportunities, when they pay off, can be a game-changer for Sequoyah. So far, the Chiefs are pushing to set all-time state records in 3-pointers attempted and made. So when their shots fall, the Chiefs know they can beat anyone on a given night.
“We’re going to be top five in the state all time in (3-point) attempts. We’re 10 away from that,” Pennington said. “We’ll be in the top five also in makes since 1987. But if we don’t shoot it well and we don’t get those attempts, for example, when we played Alcoa the other night, we had 18 attempts. Sweetwater, we may have had less. But when we get our attempts up and we’re shooting 35 percent, we’ve got a chance. That gives a chance. When we shoot it well, and we defend and rebound, we have a chance like anybody would. Tuesday nights and Friday nights are not our most important nights now. It’s Monday, Wednesday and Thursdays. We’re trying to get our process perfect, our daily process, and when we do, the wins will come.”
As for Grant, it is fitting for his role on the team that he looks up to NBA great LeBron James for inspiration. Grant often shoulders much of the scoring load the way that James does at the next level.
“I like the way LeBron drives. I like his playing style all the way around,” Grant said.
After graduation, Grant’s plans for basketball remain up in the air. Only time will tell if the Sequoyah standout will play on after high school.
“I don’t really know yet,” Grant said. “I haven’t really decided. I want to go to college, but I don’t know if I want to play ball yet.”