Langston Hughes, Landers Nolley, Buford, Eddie Martin, Rory Welsh, Buford Showcase

Early to rise for Langston Hughes boys

High school coaches put in long days in season, and it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.

For Langston Hughes boys coach Rory Welsh, who didn’t want to miss the growth of his infant daughter Lucia, this posed a challenge. Welsh, who led the Panthers to the Class AAAAAA state championship last spring, wanted to make sure he met his commitment to the basketball program while finding a way to be there for Lucia.

“I couldn’t be up here until 8 or 9 o’clock every night,” Welsh said. “That wouldn’t give me much chance to be a dad.”

Welsh said he turned to friend Omari Forts, who coaches at Tri-Cities, for advice. Forts, who had gone through the coach-parent tug-of-war with his own children, had a solution.

Morning practices.

“We did it a couple of practices late last season,” said Welsh. “This season 21 of our first 22 practices have been in the morning.”

Welsh said he often is the first one at the Fairburn school. His players start arriving at 5:45 a.m.

“At 6, we’re toes on the line ready to go,” he said.

The results so far have been solid. After opening the season with a pair of losses to St. Pius and Mountainbrook (Ala.), the Panthers have reeled off four straight blowouts. Star guard Landers Nolley has been solid, and Welsh said one key player in the four-game winning streak has been transfer Tyler Smith, who played some in the first two games and broke into the starting lineup on Nov. 28 against Douglas County. In the four games since, he’s averaged 17 points and drawn defensive attention away from Nolley.

The morning practices have provided multiple benefits, Welsh said. First, since the workouts are at the beginning of the day, other things that happen during the school day are less of a distraction. And if a player needs to go for tutoring or has some other commitment, he doesn’t have to miss practice to meet it.

“Our energy has been really good,” Welsh said.

Snowed out: The high school football championship games got a lot of attention because of weather-related postponements, but football was hardly the only sport affected. Numerous games across metro Atlanta were postponed or canceled outright.

Buford, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA by ScoreAtlanta, was scheduled to play Loganville in a Region 8-AAAAA game Friday night then play host to the Buford Showcase on Saturday. Buford coach Eddie Martin said the game with Loganville will have to be made up.

“We’re working on a new date for the Showcase, but it’s a longshot,” Martin said.

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