CONYERS - The Rockdale boys basketball team will be under the tutelage of a new coach this season as Mitchell Harris takes over the reins of the Bulldogs.
Harris replaces Alex Guilford who stepped down as head coach after last season.
The 2007 Bulldogs will make their season debut tonight at Dacula.
The Bulldogs return just one starter from last year's team in center Darius McKnight. Corrdarryl Bethly also saw some action on the court last season and is back on the roster for the Bulldogs.
This season, the Bulldogs look to be led by Ryan Watts, Nate Gissentanner, Duane Ferrell, Quintin Taylor and Condale Scott.
Harris said he feels the strengths of this team exist on several levels.
"We're quick and the players are working together," Harris said. "We're teaching them about working, not playing. The outcome of play is fun, the outcome of work is success. We're going to be a very cerebral team who's quick and attacks both offensively and defensively and is in control."
Harris said some of the obstacles that lay ahead will be ones that many coaches run into during their first year at a new school.
"The players that are here now are not products of your program," he said. "While the players have bought into our approach, I know I'm going to see some residue from their former understanding of basketball. They have to make the transition from saying I can win the game to we can win the game."
Harris is a Rochester, N.Y., native where he won a state championship for Wilson Magnet in 1986. Harris coached at his high school from 1994 to 2006 before accepting the job as head boys basketball coach at Rockdale.
"My coaching philosophy is built around being a presence in young men's lives," Harris said. "Some coaches use players' talents. I don't want to use players' talents, I want to develop players and help them be the best that they can be. I want to make sure that players are maximizing their potential.
"We teach that there are five aspects of the game - from least important to most important - athleticism, strength, courage, fundamentals and intelligence. I can beat any team as long as my team is more intelligent than the other team. Regardless if they're fundamentally sound, we can out-smart other teams. We want to make sure our kids are working on their strength. We're doing agility drills to make sure we're athletic and fundamentally sound and learning the game on the upper level. If we can have a positive balance of all of those things, then we will be successful."
Brandon Evans can be reached at brandon.evans@ rockdalecitizen.com.
SideBar: Rockdale Bulldogs
Head coach: Mitchell Harris
Last year's record: 15-9, lost in quarterfinals of Region 8-AAAA Tournament
First match: Tonight at Dacula