Banks County boys basketball is gearing up for another successful season, but this season it will under the direction of new head coach, Ryan Griffin. Griffin steps in to replace Mike Cleveland, and he has some big steps to fill.
Under Cleveland's past leadership, the boys basketball program has seen two regular season and two tournament region championships and several trips to the playoffs. In addition to phenomenal seasons, many stand out athletes played collegiate basketball, such as Austin Venable, Zez Steeple, and Kahmal Wiley (whose collegiate career was ended prematurely). Most recently, Carl Cleveland. The program has produced multiple 1000 point players, such as Venable, Steeple, Orr, and Wiley. Just last year, Carl Cleveland was the first-ever player at Banks to score over 2000 points and 1000 rebounds,
Cleveland credits his past success to the philosophy of establishing relationships with players, and most importantly, parents.
"The knowledge of the game is important, but for kids and parents to buy into a program, you have to build and establish relationships," he said "I was coached that way, and I know that Coach Griffin will also continue that tradition at Banks County."
Coach Griffin has high expectations for his first season as head coach.
"Last year, we graduated five seniors, including Carl Cleveland (all-time leading scorer and 2nd all-time leading rebounder)," he said. "However, if you're a great team, you lose great players every year. We have a great core coming back, and many will step up into varsity roles.If we can stay healthy and play together, we believe we can be one of the top teams in the region."
As with any team in the state, COVID has changed the prep for the upcoming season, which didn't allow the team to get the summer workouts, games, and practices usually scheduled. Coach Griffin states that the team has worked even harder because of it.
"Our guys have been working hard in the gym since the GHSA allowed us back in," he said. "Our guys couldn't wait to get in the gym. Even when all we could do was conditioning, we were in the gym working hard."
The team will face some tough competition this season, such as East Hall and Madison, especially the season's front side.
"We believe in playing top competition to prepare us for the homestretch of region play," said Griffin.
However, with key returning players such as Pierce Martin: (2-year starter, 2nd in scoring last year), Clay Gosnell: 2-year starter, 132 assists last year), Dakota Orr (2-year starter, 2nd leading rebounder previous season), and Garrett Presley (team charge leader), the team is in an excellent position for a successful repeat season.
Newcomers, such as Chase Hatcher, who Griffin stated, is a player that will do whatever the team needs them to do and doesn't always show up in the stat sheet. Also, junior Carter Stroud, who Griffin believes in one of the best defenders and athletic players on the team.
"I have had some great moments on this team as an assistant coach, beating Butler last year to give us the Elite 8 spot, and being a part of Coach Cleveland's staff was pretty special," stated Griffin.
Griffin also added that Banks County is an extraordinary place because of the positive community support.
"I go to many basketball games, and nowhere else is quite like Homer on Friday night," he said. "We will try to make this community proud of how we represent them."
Griffin also thanks the community for all of their support, both past and future.
Griffin's staff includes returning coach Tony Bedford and Gatlin Boswell.
The team will face Hart County and White County next week for the season openers.