Demarkus Lampley is Central's secret.
A wry smile crossed Red Devil coach Bobby Wright's lips, and his voice dropped to conspiratorial levels when asked about his junior shooting guard on Monday.
"I haven't wanted to say too much about Demarkus," Wright said. "He's sort of my secret."
Or used to be. After a 23-point performance in the Central Regional final, it's unlikely he will catch the Red Devils' next opponent, Spain Park, off guard in the Class 7A semifinals on Thursday in Birmingham, Ala.
Most teams that play Central think first to senior point guard Tre Todd, and for good reason. Todd is the leader of the team, the floor general and the group's leading scorer. When a big play needs to be made, he's usually the one making it.
The other number they circle on their rosters is Tionne Williams, the 6-foot-8, long-winged senior center for the Red Devils. Williams, who became a triple-double machine of sorts during the regular season, can beat opponents on offense, on defense and on the glass with regularity.
And then there's Lampley. He's not an imposing physical threat, standing at 6-foot-1 and only about 165 pounds. He doesn't have the sheer athleticism that Todd does, nor the ability to split a mass of defenders inside the lane for baskets near the rim.
Forget about him, though, and he will drop dagger after dagger from long range.
"Lampley's a shooter," Wright said. "He can shoot the ball probably better than anyone on my basketball team. Very few teams that we face realize that. They always feel that if they stop Tre, they can stop us. People that know us, though, know that if you leave Lampley open, he's going to knock it down."
Wright said Lampley was shooting at a 53-percent clip from behind the arc this year, a number that should strike fear in his opponents. And yet time after time on Thursday in the team's 70-61 overtime victory over Lee-Montgomery in the Class 7A quarterfinals, Lampley was left free. And time after time, he knocked down a big basket to help propel the Red Devils forward. He finished the game with 23 points to earn the Central Regional's most valuable player distinction.
Wright laughed about that.
"He really can fill it up," he said, referring to Lam
pley's three third-quarter three-pointers on Thursday. "It might be too late to keep him a secret now, I guess."
Lampley said he felt like it was his year coming into the season. He knows Todd and Williams get more attention, and he's fine with that. His role, he said, is as a facilitator for other players and to knock down shots when he's got the open looks. After an offseason of hard work, he felt like he was in a perfect position to do that this year.
"Coaches told me I had to step up," Lampley said. "They said I had to step up and do what I got to do to help out. They said this was my year."
It took a lot of time on the court, getting comfortable with the pace and direction of the offense. Now, the team seems to have a great chemistry about it.
Todd will always be the team's first look every time down the court, and they would like to involve Williams on the inside as much as possible. But the more defenses key in on others, the more Lampley's sight opens up. Find him at the right moment, get him in a rhythm over the right stretch of time, and he knows how to help put a game away.
"If he can play well, along with Tre and Tionne and those guys, I feel real good about our chances," Wright said.