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SSS driven by 'non-negotiables'

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SMITHFIELD — Smithfield-Selma head basketball coach Matt Cuddington hasn’t set many expectations for his team in the upcoming season.

“As far as expectations for wins and losses, we’re not putting any expectations on that,” said Cuddington, his program coming off a 10-15 record. “I know we’ve got a couple non-negotiables that we have to do.”

The Spartans will live and die by how well they live up to Cuddington’s three ‘non-negotiables’ — playing hard, playing defense and rebounding well every game. This season, that’s the main focus for a program that has just four of 13 players returning from a season ago.

The biggest loss for Smith eld-Selma last season was the graduation of senior Anthony Council — who exploded in his  final season to average 25.8 points and 3.3 assists per game. Only one other player on the team averaged double-digit points.

Senior Elijah Weir, who stepped in as the primary ball-handler late in the season and “basically held it down for us the last three games at the point guard spot,” will start at the position this year, Cuddington said. Darius Faulk, who was in the rotation, will also take on a much bigger role.

“He’s coming back with some experience and he’s going to have to play a huge role for us too,” Cuddington said of Faulk.

The Spartans finished fourth in the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference last season with a 4-6 record, which the team hopes to improve this time around.

But more than anything else, Smithfield-Selma will start with its ‘non-negotiables’ and let the rest sort itself out.

“We’re going to be extremely young, which is why one of our goals is playing hard, boxing out — it’s a non-negotiable,” Cud- dington said. “Start with the little things that are non- negotiable, what you have to do on a day-to-day basis, and you build from there.”

LADY SPARTANS TO FOLLOW LOSING SEASON

The Smithfield-Selma girls basketball team will return to the court following a 5-18 finish last season.

According to the MaxPreps site for the team, the Spartans return most of its roster this season, including four seniors who will look to make the team much more competitive. The program  finished with a 1-9 record in the 3-A Greater Neuse River Conference last season.

The Johnstonian News reached out multiple times to first-year head coach Dedrick Payton in the days leading up to print deadline, but those requests were not returned.

Smithfield-Selma will begin its season on Nov. 19 against Corinth Holders. 

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