Lamarcus Lee knows how important it is to have faith.
A former standout for Scotlandville High, Lee is playing his first season for Southern after sitting out a year following a transfer from San Jacinto junior college. Individually, Lee’s season has mirrored that of his team, which has had its share of ups and downs before its current six-game winning streak.
Lee, a 6-foot-2 redshirt junior, became a fixture in Southern’s starting lineup seven games ago. Since that time, Southern (9-13, 6-3 SWAC) has gone 6-1 and moved up from last in the conference standings into a tie for third. For his part, Lee has averaged 12.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game during that span.
“I trust in my coach (Sean Woods),” Lee said after he scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Southern’s 93-82 win over Alcorn State on Saturday.
“He’s putting us in good positions at practice, and then we come out with confidence and execute whatever he draws up. If it's my night or one of my teammates’ night, if it's anybody, it's just believing in the coach and staying the course.”
Having faith was critical for Southern before it began playing SWAC games. After the Jaguars defeated Ecclesia College 121-55 on Nov. 18, Southern didn’t play a home game again until Jan. 11. The 43-day stretch between home games was filled with 11 road games, the final two of which opened the Jaguars' SWAC schedule against two of the conference’s best teams.
Lee started five of the 11 games during Southern’s extended road swing, and had success early. He had 17 points and four rebounds in Southern’s 83-77 win over Indiana-Purdue, and followed that up with an 11-point, six-rebound effort in an 82-65 loss at Tulane.
Lee’s faith was tested after that.
Losses at Akron and Wright State saw Lee go 1 for 8 from the field while scoring a combined two points. It would be five more games before Lee returned to the starting lineup in a 61-56 loss to Grambling the dropped Southern to 0-3 in the SWAC.
Southern’s starting lineup hasn’t changed since the loss to Grambling, and the Jaguars have found it to be a recipe for success.
“You just trust in the process,” Lee said. “(Coach Woods) calls it gumbo. It's knowing that what he constantly puts in is eventually going to taste good and look good. It's just coming to practice, and knowing that it's going to pan out.
“That’s the biggest thing for us — trusting the coach and believing in what he’s doing.”
Lee’s play during Southern’s winning streak has accentuated the consistency the Jaguars have shown throughout the lineup.
Lee had 18 points and eight rebounds in a 56-50 win over Jackson State, and seven steals in a 75-56 win at Arkansas-Pine Bluff. A 67-46 win over Alabama A&M featured Lee’s 11 points and six rebounds before he turned in his best game of the season against Alcorn State, when he knew from the start he would have success.
“As (coach Woods) said, we’re a dribble drive team, and he’s got a lot of confidence in us handling the ball,” Lee said. “From the jump (ball), we already had that mindset — come out and attack and turn the corner.”
It’s a mindset that was ready to bear fruit after Lee stayed the course, and kept up his belief the entire Southern team would turn the corner.