Winter in June
Summer jamborees help basketball teams get jump start
by Doug Gorman
High school basketball season won’t start for almost five months, but area teams are already getting ahead this summer for the 2014-15 campaign.
For most teams, that means spending the first few weeks of summer vacation at camps and playing exhibition games against other teams.
Most local coaches say their teams will play 20 to 25 games this summer.
The Heritage School Hawks are helping several local boys teams get their summer basketball fix by hosting a series of basketball jamborees with private school league teams and Georgia High School Association squads coming on campus.
“It’s a good way to get together and bring in some really good basketball teams from the area,” Heritage School coach Rusty Evans said. “We all have different things we need to work on, and this is a good time for it.
The Hawks hosted invited Northgate, Our Lady of Mercy and Heritage Christian at its new gym in a jamboree on Tuesday after Newnan and East Coweta had made a trip to the school.
“I think most of the coaches would agree, it’s not so much about results as it is getting better,” Heritage School coach Rusty Evans said.
Maybe the biggest surprise of this week’s jamboree was the way Heritage Christian performed.
The Crusaders, who have often flown under the radar locally, beat Georgia High School Association members Northgate and Our Lady of Mercy.
A year ago, Heritage Christian won the Independent Christian Schools of Georgia and Alabama title and are now on the verge of moving to the National Christian Athletic Association when the school opens in August.
Their success didn’t surprise first-year head coach Buddy Woolf,
“We are going to have a breakout party,” he said. “We have some good basketball players on this team, and I think we are showing we can hold our own.”
Newcomer LV Peterkin and Dee Lawal each scored double figures in their victory against Our Lady of Mercy
Jarred Slaughter returns after a banner season with the Crusaders in 2013-14 en route to the league title.
Lawal is the younger brother of former Georgia Tech standout Gani Lawal.
Northgate head coach Maurice Smith comes into the summer trying to find finding replacements for several seniors, including 6-5 big man Alex Rutherford and guards Daquan Ramey and Aldrickus Evans.
All-County senior guard Wendell Watson, meanwhile, is back among this year’s group of returning players and stayed on the floor for the majority of Tuesday’s 40 minutes against Heritage Christian.
Games consisted of a running clock over a pair of 20-minute halves.
Smith admits the summer workouts are going to be vital for his team’s success.
“The summer is a good time to find different players and see who can do what,” Smith said. “These type camps help us evaluate talent.”
In his first season as head coach, Smith guided the team to an 8-13 overall record and a 3-10 mark in Region 4-AAAAA play.
Despite struggling at times, Northgate had a some dramatic wins, including a 50-49 victory over Forest Park in Region 4-AAAAA action.
Evans is also using the summer to keep his players, many who play multiple sports at the Heritage School, focused on basketball.
“We are missing some kids this week, but that is just part of the summer,” he said.
A year ago, the Hawks made it to the second round of the GISA tournament and finished with ya 17-9 overall record before losing to Augusta Prep to close out the season.
“We really are trying to get some of our young players a chance to play more,” Evans said. “It is a good opportunity to answer questions. It is almost like a full season this summer.”
Evans also said the summer is also a good time for his seniors and upperclassman to step up.
Rising seniors Luke Smith and Glavin Groover both started last year en route to their playoff run and will be counted on again.
All-State junior Cole Jones is also going through summer camp and will be asked to again patrol the middle for the Hawks after turning in several double doubles as a sophomore.
The next basketball jamboree at the Heritage School is set for next Wednesday.