Prep basketball preview: Lexington boys hope to build on success

Lexington boys’ coach Robert Hairston had loads of talent last season.

But what Hairston believes led the team to an unbeaten run through the Central Carolina Conference and a spot in the 2-A West sectional finals was a sense of selflessness and team play. In the early going, Hairston is trying to instill that mentality into a group of young players that is trying to learn his system.

It’s not like the cupboard is bare, though. The Jackets still have junior guard Keith Horton, who slashed and shot his way to a spot on The Dispatch All-County team last season. His twin brother, Kevin, also provided quality minutes off the bench.

Juniors Mel Covington and Kris Bradley return from last season, along with sophomores Andre Baldwin and Raekwon Byrd.

The key right now is not with X’s and O’s, Hairston said. It’s replacing the gritty, hard-working, selfless attitudes that Lock McLean, C.J. Woodberry, Mikal Lewis and others brought to the table last year. “It’s hard to replace that,” he said. “That’s what made the team chemistry so good.

“That’s what we’re dealing with right now, getting those kids to make sure they’re buying into what they’re capable of doing.”

So far, Hairston likes what he sees. “I’ve got a great group of kids here,” he said. “I have an A/B honor roll team, and that’s a big thing.”

Hairston is carrying 14 players on this year’s roster, an unusually high number for him. But he believes there isn’t much drop-off from one player to the next, so anyone could see significant minutes at any time. Hairston counts on his assistants to work out the substitutions, knowing who’s got the hot hand and who doesn’t on a given night.

Sophomores Coleman Hayes and Nidarious Welborn are up from the junior varsity, freshman Daniel Reed Bennett was a key part of the middle school team a year ago, and sophomore Nolan Benson should provide some help in the post.

The Jackets, who constantly attack the basket, don’t plan on doing anything differently this season. The faces and names may change, but the style should remain the same. “We’re still gonna play inside-out,” Hairston said. “That’s the only way I know to play.”

Junior Ricky Holmes joins the Hortons in the backcourt, and Hairston said he has been impressed by DaQuqin Ebison so far.

Lexington opened the season with a loss at Reagan on Tuesday, then travelled to Parkland late Wednesday. The Jackets visit High Point Andrews on Tuesday.

Jason Queen can be reached at 249-3981, ext. 220, or