TJ Austin

Myrtle Beach's T.J. Austin shoots in the game with Carolina Forest on Friday. Austin and Da'Ron Finkley both played on the state championship football team. 

There aren’t a lot of negatives to Myrtle Beach High winning a state football championship. One of them is the impact on the boys’ basketball program, which is just now getting its full squad together.

It’s a good problem to have after the Seahawks went the distance in an already extended football season. But it’s a familiar one for Myrtle Beach basketball coach Craig Martin and Seahawks’ hoopsters.

“We’re used to it. I’ve been here 10 years and it seems every season the football team is going deep in the playoffs,” Martin said. “We expect to be without some key players. It’s ‘next man up’ for us.”

Although the Seahawks were only waiting on three football crossovers to join the hoops squad (T.J. Austin and Da’Ron Finkley started the week after the state title, while J.B. Favorite returned this week after playing in the Touchstone Energy Cooperatives North-South All-Star Football Game), the trio represents a considerable amount of experiencing returning to a team that lost two-thirds of its roster.

Among the key losses were three that went on to play at the next level - all-state selection Robert Swanson (Furman), Brady Vest (Grinnell College) and OíNeil McBride (Fort Union Military Academy). While replacing that much talent and experience will be a tall order for the young Seahawks, Martin believes this year’s team has all the building blocks to become a title contender like the football program.

“We’re young but these guys have been playing together for a long time, from JV and AAU ball and all the way back to rec league,” said Martin, who led the Seahawks to a Lower State title in 2012. “There are going to be some bumps in the road in the transition to the varsity level, but I couldn’t be happier about this group of guys. It’s great to see them learning, improving and filling their roles.”

Myrtle Beach’s top returner is junior guard Emorie Knox, who has already turned in a 30-point performance and a triple-double this season.

Fellow juniors Darius Hough and James Marques have contributed scoring in the early going, as have sophomores Ayden Hickman and Austin. Seniors John Emory Pruitt, Finkley and Favorite bring some experience and depth to a team loaded with raw talent and energy.

“I like how our guys get after it,” Martin said. “They want to get better and they are working hard. We have everything we need to be successful except experience, and that will only come with time.”

And they won’t have to wait long to find it as the Seahawks prepare to play in this weekend’s Panther Classic and next week’s Beach Ball Classic. Martin hopes his team responds in time for region play in hopes of claiming a 10th consecutive playoff berth.

“We’re getting ready to play some really good teams in those tournaments and I’m hoping it will give our guys a chance to come together against some tough competition,” Martin said. “We need to see some different rotations and how well we match up against those teams. Hopefully we will find some consistency before region. We’ve got some good teams in our league too, so we should be tested by playoffs.”


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