Laurinburg: One School, Four Teams

<b>LAURINBURG, N.C. –</b> Laurinburg is a school with four basketball programs under one roof. On Wednesday, took a trip to see each one of them.

Laurinburg Institute will celebrate 100 years as a school next year. Tucked away in a small town near the South Carolina border, the school is home to four different basketball teams for the 2003-04 season.

The most recognized of the four programs is the team coached by Chris Chaney. Laurinburg Prep is the high-profile, high-flying group of fifth-year standouts that year in and year out is among the best in the country.

On Wednesday, Laurinburg Prep worked out under Chaney's watchful eye. As far as news around the program, there's not much to report. Guard Chris Clark is visiting New Orleans this weekend. Big man Bienvenu Songondo didn't participate in practice but was rehabbing his knee.

Songondo is one of those 6-11, 220 pound prospects who hasn't been seen by enough colleges yet but could turn into a hot spring commodity, provided he can showcase himself during the year.

Laurinburg Institute is coached by Rolando De La Barrera. The former Berkshire skipper has crafted the Institute program by bringing in players from around the world. Two Milwaukee players – Draelon Burns and Avery Smith – are the only Americans on the roster.

The rest of De La Barrera's kids are either from Gambia or Brazil.

Hatila DeSouza(left) is regarded as the top prospect in the program. The 6-9 power forward is a rebounding machine that plays hard and is intense. High-majors will covet him in the spring. He's joined inside by a frontline that also features 6-10 and 7-3 players.

Damiao Rodrigues (right) is the 7-3 presence. He's lost 35 pounds since the end of last season and for a guy his size has impressive ball skills. Here's a guy who is much improved since last year and will get spring looks.

Renato Souza is the 6-10, 300 pounder. Inside the paint, within five feet of the hoop is where he operates. All three of these guys are spring signees and the Institute has more than just this trio.

Rodrigo Da Silva is a 6-7 swingman who should get mid-major recruiting attention. Diego Belizario, an athletic 3-man is the squad's lone committed player. He's going to Tennessee State.

A trio of Gambians – one frosh, one soph and a junior – also arrived and each needs work at this point but the sophomore swingman and freshman forward have a chance.

Burns has not taken the SAT but is hearing from Creighton and Idaho at this juncture. De La Barrera has much of the nucleus returning from last year's 10-10 team that had some chemistry issues. However, with the arrival of some prospects who could play point guard, much more is expected from this bunch this season.

Ken Gordon oversees the Laurinburg Charter High School team and the Charter Prep team. Both of which have a few Division I prospects.

The Charter Prep team is led by Troy Mathis. An under recruited native of Raleigh, Mathis scored 80 points in a game last year and averaged 29 for the season. He's probably going to visit Clemson unofficially on Oct. 25 and Rutgers is keeping tabs on him.

Mathis is a 6-0, powerful guard with a good burst. He's worth keeping tabs on because as prospects continue to commit, he's bound to receive more and more attention. Plus, he's got good range on his jump and gets it off quickly.

The big man (left) for the Charter Prep team is Kareem Cooper. The native of Virginia is headed to Memphis and he's intriguing because he's 6-11, left handed and has a good stroke on the perimeter. Darnell Hugee, a native of New York and James Monroe, both small forwards, could also receive some Division I attention.

The Charter High School team isn't bad either. This team was victorious over the Charter Prep boys in two brief, informal pick up games on Wednesday. Led by junior Kiwan Smith (right), a native of New York, this bunch is going to win some games.

Smith scored 14 points in the ABCD Underclassmen All-Star game in July. He's long, rangy and athletic and sure to gain recognition this season. Antwan Watson (left), a sophomore from Raleigh, is a 6-4 guard with athleticism and strength.

With four teams under one roof, it can be tough to keep up with "Laurinburg." Hopefully, this brief breakdown illustrates the different players on each team for the upcoming season.

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