COVINGTON - Newton's boys basketball team is hoping it can turn the success it had during the offseason into a strong regular season.
The Rams spent their summer preparing for the season playing in regular scrimmages as well at camps at Savannah State and Georgia College and State University where they went 21-4.
"Our players are excited about the season," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "We played some really solid teams like Windsor Forest, Beach, Tatnall County, Brookwood, Dacula and Houston County to name a few. When we shot the ball well, we were really good this summer."
Returning from last year's team which went 18-9 are Tee Farley and Jamon Hawkins. They were expecting the services of Tevin Bradley but a move to Salem changed things.
Rasmussen is also looking for good things from juniors Jared Mann and Chuck Edwards, senior Demetrius McCray and sophomore Derrick Henry. Expected to contribute off the bench are juniors Brandon Carlton and Windell Darrington.
"The thing I appreciate most about this team is that we have a great group of guys who are hard working and have great attitudes. Our defense is much improved and I think we are tougher mentally and physically than we were a year ago," Rasmussen said. "Our players showed more commitment in the offseason to getting in shape and getting stronger physically than I can remember in the past 11 years here. I think that says a lot about the character and commitment of our players. Hopefully, we'll see the results of that as the season goes along."
Once again, the Rams will face a tough challenge this season in Region 2-AAAAA, which produced two Elite Eight teams last season in Stephenson and Douglass.
"Four teams from our region have gone to the state Final Four the last four years, including Newton in 2005," Rasmussen said. "Last season, two teams from our region advanced to the 5-A Elite Eight, so our region is certainly one of the best in 5-A."
Newton will be using a couple of tough tournaments to help them get ready for region play.
The Rams have been invited to Tennessee to play in the Oak Ridge High School Rotary Club Showcase, where they'll play Oak Ridge and Wartburg Central this weekend.
Over the holidays, they will play in the Powerade Tournament at North Gwinnett.
"We are looking forward to going to Tennessee Thanksgiving weekend to play two of the best teams the Volunteer State has to offer. Those will be really tough games in their backyard, so we feel that will be a great way to make our team more prepared for the region," Rasmussen said. "We also go to North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee for the Powerade Tournament at Christmas break to play some really good teams from Georgia and South Carolina."
Besides Douglass and Stephenson, the Rams also have to contend with M.L. King, who made it to the Elite Eight two years ago, as well as Redan.
"We are excited about hosting the 2-AAAAA region tournament in February and look forward to it. Right now, we are concentrating on training and practicing as a team," Rasmussen said. "Our kids are excited to get the season started."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: Newton Boys Basketball
· Coach: Rick Rasmussen (fourth season)
· Last year: 18-9 overall
· First game: 8 p.m. Friday vs. Oak Hill, Tenn., in Oak Hill Rotary Club Showcase
· Key returning players: Tee Farley and Jamon Hawkins