Rams ready to test skills at hoops camp

COVINGTON - Newton's boys basketball team is about to see if its three weeks of summer practice has set the team in the right direction as the Rams compete in a camp at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, N.C.

"Now that we've practiced and put our team together, we get to play in game situations," Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. "What we want to do is take all the things we practiced and put it together and see how we stack up against good competition."

Of the seven games the Rams will play at the camp, one will pit them against Asheville Christian, a team which has at least one 6-foot-9 player and went 26-6 last season.

"They're a private school that was better than a lot of public school teams. They're a very, very talented team," Rasmussen said. "There are several other very good teams. We'll be at the higher level of the camp and we get a chance to compete for a camp championship. We'll treat it like practice for a region or state tournament."

Even with the loss of four seniors, three of which were starters, Rasmussen is pleased with how the players participating in the summer workouts have improved.

Besides returning junior Derrick Henry, who was voted all-state last year by the Georgia Coaches Association, Newton has several other players from last year's team, including Chuck Edwards, Jared Mann and Brandon Carlton.

"From there, it's pretty open with several guys that could start. Most of them are juniors and seniors," Rasmussen said. "We're going to start four seniors around him (Henry). So we're going to be a pretty mature group. I don't think we'll have any drop off, I expect to be very good."

While a lot of the players will be the same as last season, it will not be the same team. Although it's still early and some changes will be made before their first official tip-off at home against Grovetown on Nov. 20, Rasmussen says that the 2009-10 team will be a little bit deeper and maybe a little bit taller.

"We're stronger inside and maybe a little tougher," he said. "We have to replace three starters so we have a little bit of lack of experience, but yet they'll be seniors. We may not be quite as strong with the perimeter shooting, but we have several different guys that can shoot. But I think our mid-range game and our inside game is stronger."

After returning from North Carolina, Newton will attend another camp at Georgia College and State University, where the Rams will play between 10 and 11 games with a possible scrimmage against Shiloh before calling it an end to the summer practice.

"Basically now, we get to play games and see how our practice has paid off. It's like a summer season. We practice and then we get to go play. We'll probably play 18 or 19 games this summer so we'll get a chance to see how we do," Rasmussen said. "It's good for them to build chemistry and define roles and figure out what each other does and learn to play together."

Manny Fils can be reached at manny.fils@newtoncitizen.com.