Newton boys hoops dominant in summer

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Newton's boys basketball team ended its summer practice by showing a lot of progress and potential while also showing what it will need to work on before next season.

Newton went 17-1 overall in games against schools such as Dacula, Winder-Barrow and Monroe. In the North Georgia Hoops League, the Rams won all eight games.

"We pounded people with the average margin of victory being 27 or something ridiculous," Rams head coach Rick Rasmussen said. "A lot of the games at Georgia College, we got our bench some playing time because it was a blowout."

Newton suffered its only loss during a stay at camp held at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville. After beating Vidalia earlier at the camp, the Rams ended up losing a rematch in the championship game on the final day.

"The best team we played (at Georgia College) was Vidalia. We also played Dodge County, who has a linebacker going to Georgia," Rasmussen said. "Last year Vidalia was 27-4."

One thing that Rasmussen was able to determine during his summer practice time was his top six players.

Showing what type of talent the Rams have were Stephen Croone, Shane Henry, Justin Thompson, Justin Gates, Curtis Quinn and Rashard Cabane. Of the six, Croone, Henry, Thompson and Gates are rising seniors. Quinn and Cabane will be juniors.

Displaying the biggest improvement over the end of the season was Croone, who, according to Rasmussen, was extremely quick, shot 3-pointers well and drove to the basket. During the 18 games played, Croone played about a third of each game, averaging 18 points.

"He's so quick with the dribble," his coach said. "That's the best I've ever seen him play. He's definitely going to be a D-I point guard. He was the biggest surprise."

Also proving ready to be a starter was Thompson, who averaged four steals and five assists per game while scoring nine points.

"They stepped up. I was surprised," Rasmussen said. "I said that they were going to be a year better. I think everybody looked a year better. Granted, everybody in our region is going to be a year better but I've been pleasantly surprised."

What Rasmussen needs to try to improve is depth. While he has six solid players that he can count on, he has to try to develop his bench.

"We just need to work on our depth for the fall," Rasmussen said. "We have six guys that are really solid. The kids that are going to be the JV stars are really the reserves. I thought sophomore Taylor Hawkins looked good."

Even though Newton's practice is over for the summer, that does not mean the players are going to sit at home and take a break.

"Most of them are going back to playing AAU ball in July. Stephen and Shane are probably going to get more college offers," Rasmussen said.

"I took them both the Tennessee elite camp. Tennessee was kind of interested in Stephen but we'll have to see what happens."