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Clayton State looks for even brighter future

Special Photo by Kevin Liles
Clayton State guard Drameka Griggs will be hard to replace next season after leading the team in almost every statistic during its title run.

Special Photo by Kevin Liles Clayton State guard Drameka Griggs will be hard to replace next season after leading the team in almost every statistic during its title run.

Clayton State ended its season on Tuesday with an 81-68 loss to Augustana College of North Dakota. The Lakers appeared to be heading for their second NCAA Div. II title in the last three seasons, but a cold shooting performance was too much to overcome. Lakers coach Dennis Cox has built the program into a national contender, and little should change next season. Cox must replace some valuable talent, but look for Clayton State to assume its contender role next season.

Here is a look at the season and future for the Lakers:

The season: There is a laundry list of accomplishments for the Lakers — a school-record 32 straight wins; a regular season and Peach Belt Conference tournament title; a Southeast Regional title. The Lakers stayed ranked No. 1 in the country for the majority of the season.

What went right: Just about everything. It all started with point guard Drameka Griggs, who received several accolades including All-American honors and was chosen the conference regular season and tournament MVP. Her 637 points is the all-time best in Clayton State history. But the Lakers were far from a one-person team. The inside presence of Shannon Smith, Kayla Mobley and Shay Jackson gave the team a balanced combination.

What needs to improve: With the graduation of Griggs, the Lakers will need someone else to step up to not only take the scoring role, but become a leader. Also, the Lakers lose talented inside players Kayla Mobley and Shannon Smith to graduation. Griggs averaged a team-high 19.8 points while Mobley chipped in 11.1 points and was the team’s top rebounder. Coach Dennis Cox played a lot of players this season, and they must step up for Clayton State to remain a contender.

Chances for next season: Losing your top two scorers is never easy, especially when one is an All-American. But several players saw game action, and someone has to emerge as the leader. If the Lakers are going to continue their style of pounding the ball inside, Shay Jackson has to step up. The junior averaged 9.1 points and 6.6 rebounds this season. Kayla Pryce and Bena Hanyard both started in the backcourt and made huge contributions. Cox will look to bring in some players that can offer immediate help during the April signing period. Clayton State’s loss in the NCAA Div. II Elite Eight should be a motivating factor for the upcoming season.