Placeres to lead Scots basketball

Coach Placeres, his wife Joanna, and their daughter Santina are all smiles after the Scots won the 2019 USA South Tournament. Photo courtesy of Grant Agnew.

Coach Raul Placeres will lead the Maryville College Scots into Boydson Baird Gymnasium next season as he was named the new head basketball coach at MC.

Placeres, a Miami, FL native, will take over with extensive basketball experience under his belt. Placeres, the son of Cuban immigrant parents, experienced hardship and struggle from an early age and basketball was his daily escape.

“Basketball has always been a tool that has opened a lot of doors for me,” Placeres said. After graduating from Gulliver Prep High School, in Miami, he received a scholarship to Keystone Junior College in Pennsylvania. Upon graduating from KJC, he came to Maryville College where he not only graduated in 2006, but also accomplished many athletic achievements.

Placeres ended his two year tenure here having led the Scots to a “Sweet Sixteen” and “Round of Thirty-two” finish in the NCAA playoffs, broke the school record for assists in a single game with seventeen, named an All-Conference player twice, never lost a conference game, and finished with over 1,100 points and 600 assists.

Following his graduation from MC, Placeres became the JV/Freshman team coach at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School and coached them to a 15-2 record. After his first year there he was named the head coach of the varsity team. Under his guidance, Gatlinburg-Pittman reached the #2 ranking in the state of Tennessee.

In 2012, Coach Randy Lambert added Placeres to his staff. In the eight years that Placeres has been on the MC basketball staff, the Scots have claimed a Great South Conference Championship (2011-12), four USA South regular season titles (201314, 2016-17, 2017-18, 201819), three NCAA Tournament appearances (2011-12, 201718, 2018-19), and have had more than fifty All-Conference players.

The personality of Placeres can be summed using three words: passion, toughness, and discipline. Not only is he very knowledgeable about the Xs and Os of the game, but he also understands that his players are the key to the success of the program. He relates well to today’s players, and the guys really enjoy playing for him.

“I’m their harshest critic but I’m also their biggest cheerleader,” Placeres said. His players are expected to be held accountable if they want to experience success both on and off the court.

“I don’t believe in tough coaching. I believe a coach either loves his players or he doesn’t. And if you love your players then you’re going to demand excellence from them,” Placeres said.

His success as a coach goes far beyond wins and losses. What his players do 10, 20, or 30 years after they graduate is what is important to him. Basketball is just the platform he uses to teach them how to win the ultimate game—the game of life.

Succeeding a legendary coach who has over 700 career wins is no easy task, but Placeres is up for the challenge. He has spent the past eight years learning, firsthand, how to promote the program and enforce the belief that everything is always about the program itself.

“It takes a village to get you where you are and Coach Lambert has done an excellent job teaching me the game,” said Placeres. “A lot of the stuff that I’ve learned, such as how to prepare for a ballgame, how to discipline a player, how a player needs to act, and what a successful program looks like, I’ve learned from him.” He has consistently and patiently worked his way up the ladder. He has paid his dues and has earned this opportunity.

Going into his first season, Placeres will be experiencing a lot of change. The Scots are losing seven seniors from the 2018-19 season.

They will lose Kaleb Estes, starting point guard, Emanuelle Garcia, a guard from Puerto Rico, Danterrious Bray, a guard from LaGrange, GA, and Chris Watson, a center from Stuart, FL.

Placeres will also be without Dante Hoppa, a forward who reached 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds last year, MC career three-point record holder Calvin Songster, a guard who shot 53.4% from behind the arc last year, and Emier Bowman, a high-flying forward who surpassed 500 career rebounds and 150 career blocks.

“I love the fact of the unknown. With change comes a lot of uncertainty, anxiety, and many different emotions but it’s just going to be another year where we will just have to find a way,” Placeres said.

Many guys will have to step up and fill roles that they have not done before in their careers. But as the season progresses, Coach Placeres and the Fighting Scots will figure it out.

“Every day for me is a new day and I’m learning something new every day. But I’ve been preparing for eight years. I’m blessed that I’m here.”

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