Ever since Treylan Smith made the move to varsity his eighth grade year, his ultimate goal has been to help put Petal basketball on the map.
For two years, Treylan was aided in that pursuit by his brother, Tirus. But after Tirus signed with the University of Texas at El Paso and began his college career with the Miners this past season, the brothers were separated for the first time in a long time.
Adjustment was needed, to say the very least.
“I didn’t have that go-to person who I could just throw it to, and he could go get a basket,” Treylan Smith, now a sophomore, said.
Enter Caleb McGill.
McGill, also a 10th grader, transferred to Petal from Seminary before the 2017-2018 season. Though the newcomer is listed as being four inches shorter than Tirus at 6-foot-5, McGill gave the Panthers a much-needed inside presence on both ends of the floor.
And almost immediately, the sophomore duo clicked—Probably because of the familiarity they already had with one another.
“We’ve been around each other ever since sixth grade,” Smith said. “We’ve played with each other since then, so we really got a good feel for each other and what we both can do.”
Both averaged right at 14 points a game this past season. Both were team’s top two leading rebounders. Both shot well over 50 percent from the floor. And more importantly, both helped Petal get a step or two closer to that aforementioned map.
The Panthers had one of the best seasons in program history, winning 17 games and coming up just a win shy of their first-ever trip to Jackson.
For their successes on both a team and personal level, Smith and McGill have been named our Sports601 Hattiesburg Boys Basketball Co-Players of the Year.
“Just to be considered for this award with all the teams throughout the Pine Belt, it’s a real honor,” Smith said.
“When I made the move to Petal, they talked about the big goals and big things they had in store for me,” McGill added. “I never knew it would be this big. Playing alongside Treylan, Mykah [Brown] and those guys, it just made it easier, basically.”
Actually, things looked easier for the entire team most of the season. The Panthers started red hot out of the gate, winning nine of their first ten games. After a close loss on the road to Meridian, the eventual Class 6A Runner Up, Petal swept their regular season series with rival Oak Grove in the span of a week. The first meeting was close and a serious candidate for the Game of the Year in the area. The second? Not so much.
It was not a night to remember for Oak Grove. It was, however, for Petal. McGill went as far as saying it was his favorite game of the season, and Smith agreed.
“That game at Oak Grove. We had just beat them by one [point] the week before,” McGill said. “Everybody was giving us heat about it. ‘Oh, y’all are supposed to be this super team and only beat Oak Grove by one’.”
“Then we came out and beat those boys by 37 points.”
“That was fun,” Smith added with a laugh. “Best game I’ve ever played.”
Petal went on to beat Oak Grove a third time in the Region 5-6A Tournament in February.
Of the Panthers’ six losses, three came at the hands of Meridian. The second came at home, 74-60, in late January. The Panthers led much of the first half in that one, and if not for a lackluster third quarter, they could have finished the job.
It went down as a loss, but there were certainly positives to take away. Number one, they hung around with the defending Class 6A Champion. And two, there was not a seat to be had or even a place to stand inside Petal’s gymnasium.
That was also the case against area rivals Oak Grove and Hattiesburg, which wasn’t necessarily expected, according to McGill.
“Honestly, it was crazy. I watched from the Forrest County game at the first of the year where we had 50 or 60 fans, to the Oak Grove, Meridian and Hattiesburg games where it’s a packed out gym. It’s burning hot in there because there’s so many people in there.”
And that goes back to that top goal of making Petal a household name on the hardwood.
Looking forward, the Panthers are set to lose key seniors like Mykah Brown, Matt Butler, Marquise Bridges and TJ Henly. But Smith and McGill are back with another year under their belt and an overwhelming drive to get Petal to that top spot.
“We’re going to miss those seniors. But junior year, it’s on us now,” McGill said. “Those seniors paved the way for us. Now we gotta lead that group of guys that’s our there practicing right now. We gotta lead them, and we’re going to get to the Big House. We gotta take them there.”
McGill says it can’t come fast enough.
“I’m looking at that calendar every day.”
As for building on that success as sophomores, Petal head coach Todd Kimble says the offseason could be huge for his two stars.
“When those guys go through a whole summer and offseason in the weight room and the things we’re going to do, I think it will be pretty fun to see where they can get as juniors.”