On Tuesday afternoon , Athletic Director mark Freeze announced the new head coaches for the boys and girls’ varsity basketball teams at Laurens High School. The new head coach for the Lady raiders is Yoneko Washington and for the boys Ben Sinclair.
Yoneko may be better known to long time Raider fans by her maiden name which is Allen. Yoneko is a Laurens native who played for the Lady Raiders from 1996-1999 where she lettered for 4 years. She was a team captain on the Lady Raider teams that won the state championships her last two years where the teams won 58 consecutive games. She was named AAAA player of the year her senior season. She also participated in the SC-NC All-Star Game her senior season.
She went on to graduate from Western Carolina and played collegiate basketball for 4 years lettering all 4 and served as captain 3 of those years. She was an Academic All-American with a GPA of 3.98
She has served as head coach at Union County for 5 years and is coming home to Laurens after serving as the head coach at Boiling Springs this past season.
She has a son Zaylen and a new daughter Xiyael.
She said it has always been a dream to come back home and coach at Laurens and that she hated to leave Boiling Springs because she wanted to finish rebuilding the team but the opportunity was just not one she could pass up. She has kept up with the raider program over the years as she and Coach Travis Langford have kept in touch over the years. She stated that after she meets with the team and observes them during off season workouts she will have a better idea of what she wants to do buy described her style of play as “run and gun” pushing the ball with pressure defense. She said she would not measure her team’s success strictly on wins and losses but on individual improvement over the first couple of years.
When asked about what coaches had meant a lot to her over the seasons she mentioned her father Melvin Allen, former Gray-Court Owens coach Ronnie Wilson and Coach Langford.
She also mentioned her desire to generate interest in being a Raider by making herself available to the middle school coaches and other local youth basketball programs. It is her desire to help and support them as much as possible.
He began his coaching career in Columbia at Dreher High. He has served as JV head coach, assistant varsity coach and has coached tennis. This will be his first head varsity coach position and he is coming from Wade Hampton in Greenville. He has been there since 2006 and has picked up a lot of experience working with long time coach Darryl Nance where their team went undefeated and won the state championship in 2011.
Coach Sinclair will be teaching social studies at the Laurens High. In addition to starting his new job as head coach of the Raiders he will soon start his “new job” as husband as he and his fiancée Mallory Stamps will be married this summer.
When Coach Sinclair was asked about his new team he stated that it was it would be a different team than this past season because of the loss of key senior players therefore making it a younger but less experienced team but none the less he still will go on the court expecting to win each game. He said his teams will work hard and smart and learn to function as in team in a fast pace offense and a good man-to-man defense much like Coach Washington mentioned.
He will continue to have Assistant Coaches Andre Lytes and Rico Salliewhite on his staff and may add another. He mentioned that he also wanted to get out in the community and at the junior highs to get the younger athletes excited about becoming Raider basketball players.