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Wilkins stressing attitude to Salem boys

CONYERS - For Salem boys basketball coach Darren Wilkins, the 2007-08 season was a mixed bag of results.

The Seminoles posted a 9-18 record this winter, including a 2-8 mark in Region 8-AAAA South play. At one point, the Salem boys were 7-8 overall before losing eight straight games, including five by five points or less.

In the region tournament, Salem beat Loganville in the first round 60-57 before falling to Cedar Shoals in 59-54 in the quarterfinals.

The region playoff loss to Cedar Shoals was a perfect example of Salem's struggles during the season. The Seminoles held the lead in the second half only to see Cedar Shoals rally late in the game.

"I look back on last season with mixed emotions. For the fourth consecutive year we improved our win total, but I was disappointed with the number of games we lost in which we had substantial leads," Wilkins said. "We didn't show the maturity down the stretch of games that I would have liked. We did go to Savannah and place second in the Savannah Holiday Classic against some very good teams and had some other nice wins, but sometimes we let other issues interfere with our play."

The Seminoles lost two key members of their team to graduation - center Zach Roddenberry and forward David Raudebaugh. Roddenberry, who lead Salem in scoring and rebounding, is moving on to the collegiate ranks at Harding University in Arkansas. Raudebaugh had been Salem's most consistent outside shooting threat the last three seasons.

"We will miss Zach Roddenberry and David Raudebaugh. Both of those guys are high character people that you like to have on your team," Wilkins said. "They were in our program for four years and will be hard to replace."

Even with the loss of Roddenberry and Raudebaugh, the Seminoles will have plenty returning next season.

Darius Ferguson, a two-year starter at guard, will be back for his senior year. Jarrett Brown and Tyone Elliott were both freshman starts last season. Brown had two strong games in the region playoffs and Elliott averaged seven rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field.

Wilkins is also looking for good things from Antony Armstrong, Rahshod Davis, JoJo Smith and Jonathon Slade.

The Seminoles are working on attitude and learning their roles this summer.

"The biggest thing we are stressing is a change in attitude. We lost maybe nine games (last season) in which we had a double-digit lead. We must play confident and have the attitude of a winner to carry out the things we are doing well for the whole game," Wilkins said. "Everyone on this team is expected to contribute in a positive way. Many times kids think the only way to do that is scoring and playing a lot of minutes, but everyone has to accept their roles, whatever they are.

"Everyone can play defense, rebound, pass and make hustle plays to help the team succeed. We want good people who accept their roles and play for the good of the team. That is our main emphasis for the summer and next season."

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.