CONYERS - Leonard Buckner has been hard at work.
After all, the Rockdale girls head basketball coach is looking forward to the season more than anyone else, especially after winning just nine games last year.
"They have been working extremely hard during the offseason," Buckner said of his latest group. "We will be able to tell where we need to go after we play Alcovy in our scrimmage."
Last year the Lady Bulldogs went 9-17 overall, including 3-7 in Region 8-AAAA South action. Their season ended after losing six of their last seven games, bowing out to Dacula in the opening round of the region tournament 64-39.
But Rockdale will have something it was without one year ago - seniors, four to be exact, including point guard Keeisha Foreman, point guard Nicole Cuffy, power forward Sherry Allen and shooting guard Lamonica Johnson.
"Our strengths should be our experience, (but) they are all major players," Buckner said. "We had no seniors last year, so the returners have been playing varsity for at least two to three years."
One year ago, Foreman led the Lady Bulldogs with four steals per game. She also led Rockdale in pass deflections, proving quite a pesky defender against opposing teams.
Junior point guard Porshia Cleveland and sophomore forward Giovanni Sims will also be vital to Rockdale's success this season. Last year, Cleveland averaged a team-high nine points and four assists per game, while Sims averaged eight points and six rebounds.
Buckner's expectations of this year's bunch are simple: Give the maximum effort day in and day out and play together as one.
"We are more concerned about how we play more so than who we play," Buckner said. "We won nine games last year, (so) we must improve that more than anything else."
Although Rockdale typically enjoys running the up-tempo style offense, Buckner is quick to point out that could be misleading.
"We must be able to execute offensively and not just run down and take the first shot we see," he said. "That can be fool's gold."
The Lady Bulldogs' first game is against visiting Lithonia next Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
Jason Murdock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: At a glance
· Team: Rockdale girls basketball
· Coach: Leonard Buckner
· Key returning players: Porshia Cleveland, Giovanni Sims, Keeisha Foreman, Nicole Cuffy, Sherry Allen and Lamonica Johnson
· Last year: 9-17 overall
· First game: Tuesday, vs. Lithonia