Expectations are high for Orangeburg-Wilkinson's boys and girls basketball teams.
The SC Basketball Coaches Association recently published its Preseason Top 10 rankings and the Bruins are ranked No. 1 in Class AAA.
"The coaches may have ranked us No. 1; this coach did not rank us No. 1," Orangeburg-Wilkinson head coach Willie Thomas said at the annual media day held Wednesday at Brookland-Cayce High School. "To say we're No. 1 puts the pressure on us to where we have to elevate to that level."
Thomas said the ranking is something that is good for the school and the community.
"We've had some trying times over the last few months. This gives us a chance to rally the community together," Thomas said. "We talk to the guys all the time about what it would mean for Orangeburg-Wilkinson to win a state championship."
Bruins leading returning scorer, Jordan Simpson, was recognized by the SCBCA as one of the top senior players in Class AAA. He said O-W has always had a target on its back, and after last year's loss in the state semifinals, the Bruins are poised to make another run.
"I feel like we should be number one," Simpson said Wednesday. "We made a good run last year, and I think with this team we're really good. We have all the pieces to make a big run and get to the state championship."
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"(Jordan) has the most experience of all the guys, but we have five parts to this team," Thomas said. "It starts with the point guard (Jeremiah Jacques), he has to grow up. He knows how to play the game but is still learning how to run the team."
The Bruins will take part in the Holiday Hoop Fest beginning Tuesday, Nov. 23, at Eau Claire High School. Orangeburg-Wilkinson will face Sumter at 4 p.m.
The Bruinettes are ranked second in the SCBCA Preseason Top 10. Seniors Deondra Darby and Shar'dasia Zeigler were both recognized by the organization Wednesday. Darby was named to the Class AAA team while Zeigler was named all-Elite.
Head coach Cedrick Simpson said the ranking is to be expected with the experience he has returning.
"We have six seniors, five that have been playing since the seventh grade," Simpson said. "These girls have been through the program, but now it's their time to set their own tradition. Individual accolades are great, but right now we are focused on team goals. It's all about getting better."
Darby said the Bruinettes are well prepared for the start of the season, but have some nerves as fans are allowed back into game following a COVID-shortened season.
"If we work hard, and communicate, I think we can be the top team in (Class AAA)," Darby said.
Zeigler said being named to the Elite team feels good and means a lot.
"People have been sleeping on Orangeburg-Wilkinson for a long time," Zeigler said. "Now we're waking them up, now they're counting me in instead of counting me out. If we pay attention and work hard, continue to play hard we can reach our goals."