EAST JACKSON might have one of the youngest boys’ basketball teams in the subregion, but don’t expect the Eagles to feel sorry for themselves. In fact, they have a motto overtly stating otherwise.
“Our motto this year is ‘no excuses,’” coach Brian Turner said. “When we go out there to play, whether it’s Hart, Elbert, Oconee, Hebron Christian, nobody cares how old those kids are. All they know is that they have on an East Jackson varsity uniform and that’s what they’re expected to perform like, whether they’re a freshman sophomore, junior or senior.”
While the uniform is the same, the faces are largely different.
East Jackson lost its leading scorer from a year ago, Cody Gibbs, and returns just three players with significant varsity experience — junior shooting guard Nathan Crumley, senior center Jake Grindle and senior Trent Dowdy.
That means the Eagles — who went 9-17 last winter — will have to call on largely untested players like sophomore Jarron Davis, sophomore guard Casey Reed, senior power forward John Heu and sophomore point guard Tyree Rakestraw to share the load this year.
Though young, East Jackson may have a strong perimeter presence with shooters like Crumley, Davis, Reed and Rakestraw on the roster.
The Eagles return their top rebounder, Grindle, but will be short on size in the post. That means East Jackson may employ more of an up-tempo attack to take advantage of its guard play.
That’s the kind of system Turner likes to run, though he is a bit hesitant to do so against some of the athletic teams — like Elbert County and Hart County – that are on the schedule.
“We’re definitely going to be a very guard oriented-team,” Turner said. “Whether it’s shooting three’s or trying to attack the basket from the guards.”
Being young, East Jackson is still trying to determine its rotation of players. So Turner is going to play plenty of players lots of minutes in these early-season games to get a gauge of who is ready. East Jackson dressed 17 players for Tuesday’s scrimmage and will likely do so for the first few games.
“There’s just not a lot of separation (right now),” Turner said.
For now, East Jackson’s projected starting five has Crumley playing shooting guard, Davis at the small forward, Heu at power forward and Grindle at center. Reed is currently ahead of Dowdy (who just recently returned to the team from football) at point guard and started there at the scrimmage.
Turner believes this is a team the community will enjoy watching.
“I think the fans are really going to like this group, just how they play, the way they play,” Turner said. “They play hard. They get after it. They’re a good group to coach. They remind me a lot of the kids we had the first year we opened (the school).”
As for the subregion, a tough Region 8-AA South will only be tougher this year.
“I think it’s going to be a battle throughout the year to just put yourself in the best position you can possibly get into for the (region) tournament in February,” Turner said.
But, as stated in the team’s motto, East Jackson expects to compete — with everyone.
“We expect to compete,” Turner said. “We expect to compete for subregion championships and give ourselves a chance to be seeded and have a good position for a region championship. That’s going to be our priority no matter if we had 10 seniors coming back this year or we had 10 freshmen.”