AUSTELL -- The Cobb County School District held its basketball media day Saturday, and the excitement was palpable ahead of the new season.
Boys and girls teams from the district gathered prior to practices beginning on Monday.
“The importance of media day is to shine light on the outstanding basketball talent that is inside Cobb County,” said South Cobb boys coach Gregory Moultrie, one of the event’s organizers. “We have some of the best talent in the state of Georgia and in the nation. I felt it was due to the county to shine a light on some of the young, outstanding talent.”
Each team took its turn up on stage at the front of the South Cobb auditorium discussing goals, expectations, and how they have improved from last season.
“Super excited,” said Eric Blair, who took over as Kennesaw Mountain's boys coach following the retirement of longtime coach Jesse Bonner. “The region is unbelievable -- the Mariettas, the McEacherns, the Hillgroves of the world night in and night out, to go with our non-region schedule and a couple of tournaments that we’re in. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”
For the Pope girls, a return to where they were last season is what the team is aiming for.
“We’ll be a state tournament team again,” coach Bill Blythe said. “I truly expect that. We’ve been the past two years. This year, we’re probably trying to find our identity a little bit because we’re extremely young. Expectations were really high last year, and we had a crazy injury year. Didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, but, this year, we know we have the talent to be another state tournament team.”
Several teams are undergoing serious roster turnover. The Allatoona boys team is one of them, graduating nine seniors after an 18-8 finish last season.
Even with a young team, the expectations remain the same.
“We’re looking at this year as an opportunity to refocus and play our way,” Allatoona coach Chad Phillips said. “I know that these young men have bought in to how we want to play, so our expectations are high. If we work hard and prepare, which is one of our pillars, we’re going to be fine.”
The Wheeler boys lost five players to graduation after its trip to the second round of the state playoffs. Malachi Rhodes now plays at Bucknell, with Charles Smith IV at SMU and Jaire Eastmond at Denver.
“We had a number of kids that were around varsity some last year,” Wheeler coach Larry Thompson said. “Next man up. That’s what high school basketball is all about. Guys come in and wait their turn and compete at a high level. When they’re seniors and juniors it’s their turn to fill in.”
The Wildcats will be looking toward an influx new talent, including transfer Aaron Reddish. The former Pennsylvania prep standout is the younger brother of former Duke star and current Atlanta Hawks rookie Cam Reddish.
Practices start Monday, with games to follow a few weeks later. For the players in attendance, those few weeks are still too long to wait.
“There’s not a day this summer that we haven't been together in the gym,” Lassiter boys player Kyle Keener said. “We really want to flip our season from what we had last year. We had higher expectations, and I think we’re ready and we know we can do better.”