COVINGTON — The Newton Rams are ready to start a new era in their new gym as they take on Region 2-AAAAAA and county rival foe Alcovy in their first game at Rams Arena.
“It’s a great gym, I call it Rams Arena,” Newton boys head coach Rick Rasmussen said. “I visit a lot of small colleges all the time and we have a better gym than some of them.
“This gym holds an extra 1,000 people than the old gym and that one held 1,500. I know early times when we played rival games we had more than 1,500. I think that that first game is the best chance to fill it because you’re only going to have one first game. I’m excited about that and I’m glad it’s a rival. I hope we can pack it and make it a really special night.”
The Rams ended their season last year with an overall record of 16-10 while going 6-6 in region play. Unfortunately, they made an early exit in the region playoff.
With three returning starters and a few other players with varsity experience from last season, Rasmussen is hoping to be in solid contention for a region championship and a deep run in the playoffs.
“It’s a long season,” Rasmussen said. It’s a journey and you really have to focus. One of the things we’re trying to preach is consistency and to play every game like it’s the last game. If we can remember what we’re after and keep that focus I think we’ll have a great chance to fulfilling that goal.”
Playing major roles in Newton’s return to the state tournament are returing starters Taylor Hawkins, Jalen Glover and D.J. Hill. Hitting the floor after getting playing time coming off the bench from last year are Caylen Gooch Brandon Lybrand and Tarik Rogers.
While the Rams have experience, what they don’t have is height. However, Rasmussen feels confident that as long as his players do what they’re suppose to do the lack of height will not be an issue.
“We just have to be really good at the things we can control,” Rasmussen explains. “We can control taking good shots, we can control making good decisions and we can control playing hard. We’re pretty quick so we can mix up or defenses and pressures.”
With Rogers listed as the tallest players at 6-foot-3-inches, Rasmussen feels that the Rams will have one of the smallest, if not the smallest front lines in the region. But he feels that the play from his guards should be enough to overcome the height differential.
“We play hard and we play smart. If we play together we’ll be pretty solid at the guard position,” Rasmussen said. “Our front line will be brand new starters but we have three returning perimeter players. We feel pretty good about our strength at guard and the front line we’ll have to see who steps up. Brandon and Tarik have been starting in those positions in the summer league and they were pretty good.”
The other player that Rasmussen is counting on is freshman Darvin Jones. Even if he doesn’t start, the Newton coach feels that he will make an impact to the team as a bench player.
“We have a really exciting freshman class and one freshman is competing for a starting spot. That’s very rare for us,” Rasmussen said. “He was one of the best players at New-Rock last year. I’m really excited about him.”
The one thing that is missing from the team is a vocal leader on the floor. Hawkins and Glover both lead by example but they do not have that vocal presence.
“Jalen and Taylor are 100 percent committed and they know the expectations. So in essence this is their team,” Rasmussen said. “We’re going to have to see who becomes the coach on the floor by their play and who starts to pick up that vocal role. I think time will tell in that regard”