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Garnes hopes to get Southeast to top of City League

Published Dec. 5 at 11:27 a.m. | Last updated Dec. 5 at 11:28 a.m.

Southeast senior guard EJ Garnes has the kind of quickness that gives him space. Defenders can’t play him too tight because he can speed right past them.

Run a full-court press on Southeast, and Garnes can outrace defenders. If he decides to play tight man defense, count on a hand swiftly dislodging the basketball for a steal.

As Southeast has its sights on winning a City League title for the first time since 2008, beginning with Friday’s season-opener at South, know that Garnes will play a big role.

But Garnes’ quickness isn’t what his dad, Ervin, sees as his ultimate strength.

“I really admire his toughness,” said Ervin, who played at Southeast, Butler Community College and Mississippi. “He’s always been the littlest guy. Being the little guy for that many years and being able to redefine yourself, that’s what I really enjoy about watching him.”

EJ Garnes, an All-City player last year, comes from a basketball family. His mom, Brenda, was the point guard at her high school in Drew, Miss.

There are times when Brenda sees the size of opponents and wonders how her son — all 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds — will do.

But he doesn’t have to be big to see the floor and pick apart the defense. It’s having that toughness that Garnes’ dad is referring to, which doesn’t mean running over someone or fouling hard.

“EJ has the heart for the game,” Southeast coach Melvin Herring said. “That’s what drives him, and he has the best basketball IQ that comes with it, and it’s what makes him so good.”

If Garnes makes an offensive mistake, he’ll try to make up for it on defense, making a savvy play to cut off a player driving to the basket or getting into the passing lanes.

“With EJ being the point guard, that’s the coach on the floor, the most important player on the floor,” Herring said. “You have to know every aspect of the game. You have to know your teammates’ position, know and understand clock management, entry passes, angles of the game, getting your teammates on board.”

He also understands his position on the team — he doesn’t have to do it all, but he must lead.

Southeast had some internal issues last season, including players leaving the team. It thrust multiple players into unfamiliar situations, but that experience should help the Buffaloes, which have had three losing seasons in the past four.

There’s two other key seniors in Jordan Murdock and Octevious Loudermilk, who joined Southeast in the final weeks of last season and made an immediate impact.

And there’s a lot of youth, including sophomore guards Elijah Payne and Jerrick Harding.

“I think we can make a good run to go to state and in state,” Garnes said. “We have experience now. With the moves we made last year, as far as getting rid of the seniors we had, it opened my eyes on what we could do this year.

“Last year was a building year, that’s how I took it. This year, with the experience and the chemistry, I’m really excited.”

Not only did Garnes emphasize improving his jumper in the offseason, he took steps to build the relationship with the rest of the team.

He got other players together to work out, to shoot, to simply hang out.

“I started out working on our chemistry with each other, to make sure there would be no beef,” Garnes said. “We’ll all be on varsity, we need to be great teammates. As far as this year, I’m trying to get them ready for the future.

“I know this is my senior year, but I want them to be successful in the future, so I’m trying to show the role of how to play the point guard for Coach Herring.”

Reach Joanna Chadwick at 316-268-6270 or jchadwick@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @joannachadwick.