KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL)- In our new digital series ‘High School Standouts,’ Digital Sports Reporter Michael Epps features local athletes with incredible talent, hoping to take that talent to the next level.
These are athletes that stand out both on and off the field.
This week’s High School Standout is Cole Layne, a senior on the Sullivan South boys basketball team.
Sullivan South has a pretty good basketball team this year. The Rebels sit at 10-1 heading into the Christmas break, winning a huge game against local rival Sullivan East.
“We knew East was gonna come in here and shoot the ball well so just proud of my guys, they answered,” boys basketball head coach Michael McMeans said.
South won the game, a big reason being the play of senior guard Cole Layne.
“Cole was huge for us that game, he had 26 in that game, it was like if we needed a bucket when East was making those 3’s and getting back in the game whenever we needed a bucket it seemed like Cole came in and got a bucket,” McMeans said.
“It feels great knowing that we can pretty much play with anyone but knowing we’re gonna get everyone’s best game each night,” Layne said.
Cole is having a phenomenal senior year, after having a breakthrough stretch at the end of last season.
“His confidence is way up, I think he knows at any time he can go get a bucket, and that’s huge he’s not afraid to take a shot he’s not afraid to miss a shot and that’s a good thing,” McMeans said.
A lot of times, when we see a high school player breakthrough, it’s because the player got strong, or got taller, or maybe added a new layer to their game.
“I’ve become a better shooter, but me and Ben have always been driving and everything but I’ve really seen improvements in my shot,” Layne said.
“It’s nice to throw him out there every night because you know what you get you know he’s a tough defender gonna go as hard as he can as long as he’s on the court so it’s nice as a coach to have a guy like that,” McMeans said.
But for Layne, it was all in the hands.
“He has always shot his 3-pointers left-handed and always shot his free throws left-handed, in practice one day I kept looking and thinking it just doesn’t look natural and he was kind of flicking the ball with his left hand, so I said you’re gonna shoot 10 here and they’re all gonna be right-handed and I don’t care if you miss or make all of them, let’s try this out,” McMeans said.
“I’ve shot since middle school with my left and when he was like ‘try to change it’ it was probably the most uncomfortable thing that I’ve ever done in my life,” Layne said.
Yes, Layne has completly changed which hand he shoots the ball with; to his teammates’ amusement.
“They think it’s cool being able to shoot with both hands but sometimes they try to joke with me and say ‘hey I’m Cole’ and shoot with their left hand, it’s just something to joke about too it’s pretty fun,” Layne said.
Baby steps right; first free throws, then to jumpshots.
“I always thought his right handed shot looked more natural and so we looked at his percentages from the 3-point-line and I asked him and said ‘listen let’s try this, let’s make everything you do right-handed,” McMeans said.
“It was really exciting but it was really awkward at first but after a little while of playing with it, it was really good,” Layne said.
A player completely switching shooting hands; you just don’t see that too often.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever heard of a kid or seen a kid doing that, I know in all the years I’ve been around basketball since I was young and all the time I’ve played and coach I’ve never seen that,” McMeans said.
Which is why when the coaching staff brought up this idea to Layne, it was a little surprising to him.
“Yeah he kinda looked at me like what are you talking about type thing because he’s always done it he’s always shot free throws left-handed he’s always shot 3-pointers left-handed and it was weird but I was like ‘Cole it looks more natural just trust me on this trust me for a second and let’s see if we can figure this thing out,'” McMeans said.
But that’s the kind of guy and kind of player Cole Layne is; he’s willing to take on the challenge.
“Cole’s such a hard worker he’s one of the biggest competitors we have and there wasn’t gonna be anything to hold him back from doing this and I think once he saw his results, percentages go up his points per game go up it was easy after that point,” boys basketball assistant coach Justin Humphries said.
“When I shot left-handed I used to question whether it was gonna go in like even wide open standing there, but with the right hand feeling much more confident about everything.
That confidence has completely rubbed off on a team to watch in this area.
“We expect to win every night we play and I think that’s possible and I think that’s the goal that we’ve set we’re not going to go into any game this year thinking we can be beat we’re gonna go in with a winning mentality and we want to go down the road as far as we can go,”McMeans said.
Follow this series throughout the year as WJHL’s Michael Epps finds the High School Standout every week on WJHL.com.