Grayson’s Marquise Lanier listens to his coach during a timeout in a recent game against Dacula. (Photo: Kyle Hess)
When Marquise Lanier learned of his selection to the Daily Post’s preseason all-county team, he had one question for his head coach.
“He said, ‘That’s cool, but when can I get back in the gym?’” Grayson’s second-year head coach Geoffrey Pierce said. “You don’t find too many kids like that.”
From his first days at Grayson, Lanier kept his focus on his work on the basketball court. He worked through the disappointing seasons. He worked through the losses and the coaching changes.
“The first few years it was kind of hard because we didn’t have as much talent, but as we’ve come further it’s been a good experience,” Lanier said.
When Pierce arrived a season ago, he welcomed the junior’s drive. Pierce opens the gym at the high school up most mornings at 6 a.m., an hour before the day’s first bell, for Lanier to work on his ball handling and shooting. He’s even let Lanier in the gym on Sunday to practice.
“If he calls me and wants to get in (the gym) we are going to get in there,” Pierce said. “Anytime you have a kid that wants to work, I am going to do everything I can to give him what he needs.”
It’s paid off.
Grayson, led by Lanier, opened the season 9-1 heading into Christmas. It was one of the best starts in the school’s history and a beginning to reaching the state tournament for the first time in Georgia’s highest classification.
“It’s been fun, it’s been fun,” Lanier said. “I am ready to see what we can do this year. The first few years it was hard. It’s just hard work and believing in myself and this team.”
Pierce, in his litany of accolades for his senior leader, stresses Lanier’s humility. The words, like his response to his preseason honor, are backed with action. To wit: A season ago, Lanier averaged more than 15 points per game. This year, that average was down to 13.5 heading into Christmas. He still leads the team, but has relinquished his stranglehold on the Rams’ offense. The result, along with the wins, are improvements in every other area of his game.
He’s second on the team in blocks and rebounds. He averages more than four assists per game and more than three steals.
“I challenged him in the offseason to work on other aspects of his game,” Pierce said. “He can score with anybody in the region, but he’s upped his rebounds, he’s upped his assists, his defense is a lot better. He’s doing whatever he needs to do to get wins for us.”
Lanier moved to Grayson at age 2 with his mother from South Georgia. He always knew he’d attend Grayson and played football first. Injuries suffered at age 13 pushed Lanier into basketball. Once he started dribbling, he forgot about rushing and tackling.
“I developed a love for it once I started playing and I just got better and better over the years,” Lanier said. “Getting injured in football made me stay away from football.”
From there, basketball dominated Lanier’s focus. He began playing AAU in the high school offseason. He briefly considered transferring from Grayson during his early high school struggles, but opted to build something.
“I just stayed and worked hard,” he said. “I see myself as when we face adversity, helping our team get through it and being a leader.”
Lanier hit a pair of game-winning free throws against Shiloh this season and points to a game last season when he hit a shot at the buzzer to squelch an attempted rally by Parkview.
“That helped my confidence. It showed me to keep calm in every situation and to always think positive,” Lanier said. “I’ve always been the type of person that believes my team can come back no matter what.”