A coaching regime change can often translate to a bumpy offseason for any sports team or organization. And while the Commerce and East Jackson boys’ basketball teams have had productive summers, they haven’t been without their hiccups.
New leaders must essentially strip down the mechanics that players have previously learned and refine those players’ talents to meld into a new system. On top of all that, new coaches must use the offseason to establish positive-working relationships with their players and build a foundation of trust.
The situation at East Jackson fits this mold as incoming head coach David Boyd has spent the past three weeks acclimating the Eagles to a new coaching system, as well as a new attitude. Meanwhile, head coach Andrew Williams has been following a similar narrative at Commerce.
Commerce recently held a summer night league which hosted around 30 games with teams from around the state. The young Tiger team faced some adversity in their first games with Williams at the helm. But Williams is more interested in research than results for the time being.
“I was more concerned about getting guys playing time and seeing reactions,” said Williams. Overall, I was pleased.”
Boyd admits that the first week of practice largely pertained to changing the status quo, with a focus on accountability and discipline.
“We had a lot of players chatting during workouts and holding conversations when they should be listening,” Boyd said. “We had players making excuses when they didn’t perform at the level we expected. It happened at the beginning of workouts, but it’s not happening anymore. They are listening and excuses have gone by the way side.”
Boyd also pointed to a change in his players’ punctuality.
“I’ve been really pleased with our progress,” he added. “We have gotten better each day. The guys have started coming in early, which they weren’t doing in the beginning. At first, they were showing up right when practice was supposed to start. Now, many of them are coming in an hour early and getting individual skill work.”
Williams admitted that implementing a new system and trying to keep attendance up has been a struggle – especially at a Class A program where most athletes participate in multiple sports in the summer. Even with minimal numbers and practice, Williams was pleased to point to the Tigers’ performance in a scrimmage at Habersham Central last week.
“I told the guys, If you’ll buy what I am selling, we will be in good shape. I saw more of that in the scrimmage last week.
Perhaps the most telling sign of improvement for East Jackson this summer was its performance in the North Georgia Hoops Camp on June 2-5, at Winder-Barrow High School. The Eagles played eight games with a variety of teams from across the state, and while early results were disappointing, the Eagles rattled off five straight wins to close out the camp.
“It was a remarkable turn around from our first camp game to our last,” said Boyd. “It was pretty exciting to see the boys improve so much in a short week. They are picking up the intensity. They understand that if they want to play at a high level, they are really going to have to work at it and try to establish a winning attitude.”
The Eagles graduated several starters in May and the current roster has spent little time on the court in terms of varsity play. For that reason Boyd has stressed the importance of offseason games and the experience gained from them. He’s also using the offseason to assess his players and how to best use their talents.
“Haven’t made any ultimate decisions yet about who is going to play (in the winter) and who isn’t, but we try to narrow it down,” said Boyd.
The Eagles have had anywhere from 20-30 athletes show up regularly for practice and workouts, but only 10 players have been active in varsity games. Of those 10, Boyd noted several players who have stood out this summer
Boyd pointed to upcoming seniors De-Vonte Tuggle and Sidney Henderson as the most experienced players on the roster.
“They’ve really stepped their game up,” added Boyd. “They are the only two players that have played a significant amount of varsity ball.”
Boyd also praised Jamarian Knox, Andrew Cruz and incoming freshman Drew Drennan for making substantial progress this offseason.
The Tigers have a substantial amount of experience on the varsity level and several previous starters will likely return to next winter’s lineup.
Kirk Vaughn, Chandler Rogers and K.J. Jones will return for their senior season. Jones led the Tigers in scoring last year (314), followed by Vaugn (290) and upcoming junior, J’Varius Wood (210). Even with the returning talent, Williams feels its far too early to establish a starting lineup. The Tigers will have the rest of June to prove themselves on the court before putting basketball on hiatus until winter.
The Eagles will close out their summer schedule today (Wednesday) with two games in a tournament at Dunwoody High School. East Jackson plays Carver at 5:30 p.m., before facing Dunwoody at 7:30 p.m.
Display comments as (Linear | Threaded)
The author does not allow comments to this entry