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Tigers hoops take steps to move up two classifications

COVINGTON -- The Alcovy boys basketball team had a good summer practice despite not having some of their major players as they prepare to enter Class AAAAAA next season.

"We didn't have a few of our returning guys there due to injuries and vacation but it gave us a chance to take a look at some of our projected players," Alcovy boys basketball head coach Eugene Brown said. "We were able to get a good evaluation of them. It went really well."

While Michael Tucker did not play during the summer, Justin Wallace was able to contribute at the midway point bringing an intense energy upon his return. Wallace, according to Brown, came back looking a little stronger, a little bigger and with a little more maturity. Brown feels that his new look, combined with a more mature attitude, will get him ready to take his role as a senior leader.

After losing to North Clayton 84-62 in the Class AAAA Elite-8 tournament last season, the Tigers scheduled their summer games to give themselves a chance as they jump up two classifications. Rather than play in camps, the Tigers decided to play in leagues at Walnut Grove as well as Henry County playing 33 games. They also participated in shootouts at Rockdale, South Atlanta and Columbia. Even without all of his returning starters, Brown was able to see enough to give him hope.

"We actually scheduled so we had a chance to play a lot of (Class) AAAAAA schools. After last year, we wanted to schedule more teams of that caliber so we were prepared for that environment better than we were last year," he said.

"We could stick our prospective returning starters in there and win a whole bunch of games. But the record don't count right now and we wouldn't get any closer to any support cast or even find a diamond in the rough."

A couple of diamonds in the rough that Brown found were rising sophomores Marquis Sims and Cameron Banks. Even though Brown didn't expect that much considering their youthfulness, he was more than pleased at how they shot the ball from the perimeter.

Also having a good summer was last year's starter Derrius Mathis. The rising junior broke the 30-point barrier in several of his games giving Alcovy yet another weapon.

"I'm not talking about open shots, they were trying to contest it. It was against quality opponents. He had a lot of 3s, he's added a pull-up game and he can always get to the basket," Brown said. "We also found that he's a great offensive rebounder."

Even though a lot of players caught the eye of the coaches, no one was more impressive than Juwan Henderson, Standing at 5-foot, 4-inch, the rising junior was able to move the ball up and down the court and earn the respect of his teammates. He was able to take everything he learned from watching last year's floor general, Devon Edwards, and successfully put it into use.

"He's ready to lead the team on both ends of the floor. I think these guys are ready to follow him. His size is not going to determine what he's going to do on the floor. We're really excited about his development over the summer and what he's capable to doing next year," Brown said. "I think when you're in the position when you have the ball in your hand most of the time you have to be a leader, you don't have a choice.

"These guys are ready to go. They passed all the challenges we put in front of them and they're ready to go. They have the right mindset, they're not living on last year. They want to set their own mark. They know what those guys accomplished last year and they want to one-up them. They're pretty excited. They know that someone has to be the first 6-A state champion and they're trying to be that team."