It’s not just about the swish; it’s about the swagger — defensive swagger, that is.
Or at least that’s what Red Raider head coach Steve Crouse is preaching to his team, which aims for its third straight winning season in 2011-12.
“We’ve really been talking to our guys about working hard and they are really buying into that — attitude and effort,” said Crouse, whose team finished 14-12 last year, following a 22-7 record the previous year. “We want to make our emphasis this year on being as good as we can be on defense. And I’m not saying that’s a strength yet, but our guys are working on that every day. They know that we’re not like we were a couple of years ago when we were a really high-powered offense and we were going to score in the 70s and sometimes 80s. We’ve got to get stops on defense.”
Crouse said the team focused on defensive tenacity during summer scrimmage games.
“We started keeping track of how many times we got back-to-back stops,” said Crouse of summer league play. “And we did that a lot. The guys really fed on that.”
The coach noted that his somewhat undersized team had some success with the 2-3 zone this summer.
“We were able to compete with some teams that were very athletic,” he said. “The guys bought in to what we were teaching and that it gave them a chance to be successful and compete against some teams with greater size and athleticism.”
Madison County lost six seniors from last year’s team, including standout Stan Maxwell, who is now playing for Waycross College.
But Crouse said he’s got some talent returning.
“We’ve got some good bodies back, we’re just not sure what everybody can do yet,” said “Last year, we knew everybody’s role early. And we’re still trying to figure some of that out this year … The fun part is that I have a lot of chess pieces to move around. The challenge is to put them in position where they can have success.”
Crouse said returning starter Terrell McCrary will play the “5” or “center” position for the Red Raiders.
“He plays big, has a wide body and works hard,” said Crouse of McCrary. “We just got to keep him out of foul trouble. We need to rest him and keep him out of foul trouble.”
This year’s team has six seniors, including McCrary, Trae Burton, Connor Hancock, Trey Carruth, Alex Jordan and Brock Turner.
Crouse expects each senior to contribute. He said Burton is “a great athlete who can attack the rim.” He said Carruth had an excellent summer and should give defenders trouble as a left-handed point guard. Crouse said Jordan is “a senior left-handed shooter with some height on him, who can help us offensively.” The coach said Hancock is a returning wing player who “can attack the basket and shoot it.” He said Turner is a “good athlete, who attacks the boards well offensively and defensively.”
Several underclassmen will also contribute, including a couple of freshmen, Malik Freeman and T.J. Skelton, who are expected to get significant playing time.
Asked who stands out on this year’s schedule as tough competition, Crouse responded, “everybody.”
He then went through a number of area schools, noting, for instance, that “Franklin will still be good even though they graduated some.” He said Hart and Elbert counties have some questions marks under new coaches.
Crouse said that in Region 8-AAAA, Flowery Branch “had a great recruiting football class” and he expects them to be more athletic and bigger. He said Clarke’s going to be really tough. “They were young last year but good,” he said. Regarding Apalachee, he said “a lot of people are picking them to be strong because they’re so big.” He noted that Winder and Cedar should be quick and that Habersham should be strong this season.
Team members include: Keidrick Curry (1), Malik Freeman (3), Trae Burton (5), Terry Allen (11), Trey Carruth (12), T.J. Skelton (14), Detric Dean (15), Connor Hancock (20), Taylor Crouse (21), Ladarius McGuire (22), Andrew Lindsay (23), Terrell McCrary (24), Ryan Thomas (30), Alex Jordan (33) and Brock Turner (44).