With guys often playing multiple sports, Madison County’s boys’ basketball coach Steve Crouse knows his summer camps can be a revolving door, as players fulfill commitments to other school teams.
But that doesn’t bother the long-time basketball coach — so long as his team members are working hard at something to better themselves and their school.
“I told them if you’re involved in something else, a school sport, that’s great,” said Crouse. “Just let me know so I’m not counting on you for practice. And that’s a part of having that team attitude. You’re here or you’re somewhere else helping out our school, that’s better than staying at home and not doing anything.”
Several of Crouse’s players did miss time with the team this summer, working in other sports. But the Raider head coach still logged plenty of time on the court with his guys.
“We started with three to four days of practice, trying to get some of our veterans and new guys in the gym together,” said Crouse. “A big focus for us this summer was attitude and effort. We wanted to have a real positive attitude and a real team effort. We felt if we could get those things nailed down, we could really work on the X’s and O’s as we have time.”
Of course, making progress on the court involves some head-to-head competition. And Madison County had plenty of that this summer, clashing with foes in about 20 games.
Madison County attended a Northeast Georgia camp in early June at Banks County, playing two games a night against and going 5-3 in the tournament. Schools at that camp included Banks County, Dacula, East Jackson, East Hall, West Hall and Lumpkin County.
“It was a good variety of teams in the area,” said Crouse. “And we did well. We played back to back. So sometimes in the second game, your legs might not be as fresh as in the first game. The games we lost were all second games.”
Crouse noted that the Raiders “graduated a pretty good run of athletes” over the past two years. He said coaches meet in the spring to discuss goals and offensive and defensive ideas.
“I just said, ‘Guys, let’s just look at this as everything is brand new for us,’” said Crouse. “Attitude and effort are the main thing for me. I asked them, ‘What are you guys interested in? What do we need to change?’ We basically opened up our playbook offensively and defensively and started going through it. And I said, ‘See what you can find that will work well with those we have coming back.’”
Crouse has traditionally not favored the 2-3 zone, noting that it is hard to rebound out of that defense. However, he said his team showed the ability to hit the boards in the 2-3 zone during camps this summer.
“Our guys really got into finding bodies and boxing out,” said Crouse.
One of the main men on the boards will be senior Terrell McCrary, the team’s lone genuine post player. Though McCrary, in the 6’2” range, is somewhat undersized against bigger high schoolers in the post, he can hold his own, Crouse said.
“He has a thick, wide body and quick feet,” said Crouse, noting that McCrary has really risen to the challenge against post players 6’5” or better and not played as well against smaller men in the paint.
McCrary will also get help from his senior classmates Trae Burton, a three-year starter at the wing, and Trey Carruth, a speedy point guard returning from an injury last year. Two freshmen — T.J. Skelton and Malik Freeman, both football players — will also see significant playing time.
“They both went to the last week of camp,” said Crouse. “Both started and played well.”
Other players on the 2011-12 team, who put in time in summer camps, were senior guard Brock Turner, senior post/wing player Connor Hancock and post/wing senior Alex Jordan. Juniors on the squad include Keidrick Curry, the team’s backup point guard; Taylor Crouse, a defensive post player and offensive wing man; and Ryan Thomas, a wing.
The Raiders traveled to Georgia College June 21-23 to face schools from other sections of the state. Madison County went 5-3 in the tournament, losing on a last second shot to Dodge County, the quickest team in the event, according to Crouse. Other schools in the tournament included Clinch County, Chestatee, Lakeside, Newton, Vidalia and Richmond Hill.
“Dodge County pressed us the whole game and we handled their press and we were actually beating them,” said Crouse. “And they had the ball under the basket with four seconds to go and they just muscled through and got a shot off … We handled their athleticism and their press pretty well.”
The coach said he saw real improvements over the summer.
“It was a great summer for improvement and getting those two freshmen (Skelton and Freeman) in the mix,” said Crouse. “Everybody is starting to learn what everybody else can do.”
The Raiders will start fall practice for the 2011-12 season in late October.