CONYERS - In his 48th year coaching basketball, Ron Bradley is still just as excited as tip-off approaches on the opening game of a new season.
Tonight, Bradley, in his first season as the head boys basketball coach at Heritage, will lead the Patriots against Morrow in the first game of the Morrow Thanksgiving Tournament.
"This is my 48th year coaching, and every one of them is exciting," Bradley said. "Each one of them is new, and you feel a responsibility to your players to do the best job you can and give them a chance to be successful. Still, you can't make the players any more successful than they want to be, so you just hope that they're on fire to play this game. All of them have paid a price to be here, and they deserve to be here."
The Patriots return a handful of starters from last year's team, as well as a few other players with considerable playing experience.
Seniors Blake Craft and Key Wade look to anchor the backcourt for the Patriots, while junior Juron Dobbs returns as one of the top scorers from last season.
Juniors Austin Murray and Shakeem Mitchell also saw plenty of quality action last season and are back on the roster this year, as is 6-foot-8 junior Justin Jones.
Bradley said he's also looking for good things out of senior transfer Kaz Hardin and junior Cliff Hill.
With expectations high this season, Bradley said he's keeping his goals simple.
"Starting off, you always want to be as good as you can be," he said. "We know this can be a good team, but whether or not it can be a great team is still yet to be determined. I think we have the possibility of having a good basketball team. Of course, we'll start finding out as the season goes on. We'll have highs and lows, but attitude is going to be a tremendous factor. It'll be interesting to see what level we want to be."
Bradley said he's excited about the raw talent this team has and he hopes to sculpt that talent into a championship-caliber team.
"We've got some athletes, but how we deep we are will have a lot to do with how successful we are," he said. "We feel like we've got some players that are strong basketball players, and we should have a good basketball team. Still, the season will determine whether or not that's true. We've got good size in our starting lineup. After that, we don't have much size.
"We don't like to talk about potential, but this team has tremendous potential. It's going to be interesting to see how good they want to be. I think it's an exciting team and fun team to watch play."
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
SideBar: At a glance
Team: Heritage boys basketball
Coach: Ron Bradley
First game: 7:30 p.m. today against Morrow in Morrow Thanksgiving Tournament.