THE JACKSON County 2013-14 boys’ basketball season is all about new beginnings.
Outfitted with a new gym and a new head coach, the Panthers will aim to employ a new attitude to build a foundation for the future of the program.
“As a staff, our only expectation is for our players to buy into our process for becoming the best team we can be,” said Panther head coach Mark DeFoor. “If they buy into our work ethic and level of commitment, then any goals for wins and losses will take care of themselves.”
DeFoor made the transition from an assistant coach at AAAAAA South Forsyth High School to the Jackson County head coaching position back in the summer – during which time he had the chance to become familiar with his players and staff. The Panthers also began off-season conditioning approximately five weeks ago. DeFoor believes the off-season workouts will aid the team, but the Panthers’ biggest gains will be made once the entire team is together. However, DeFoor will have to wait at least a week longer as 15 Jackson County players are on the Panther football team, which is currently battling in the state playoffs.
“Early success for us will be determined by how committed our players are to becoming the best player they can be,” added DeFoor. “Are they competing each day in practice? Are they working on their skill set outside of practice? Are they coming to open gym and competing against players better than they are? Do they study the game by watching film or games on television? (These things) are just small fractions of the effort required to have early success.”
While much is new about the Panther basketball program, the personnel is not. The Panthers return five seniors from last year’s team, including Hakeem Samuels, Ben Brissey, Xavier Harper, Layson Giles and Dylan McDonald.
“We expect all of our seniors to lead this team,” added DeFoor. “They bring experience to an otherwise young group of players as well as mental toughness from the football field.”
The Panther coaching staff also expects returning players Adrian Parson, Jacob Lewis, Antonio Strickland and Corey Ramey to be big contributors on the court this season.
Last season was a tough go for the Panthers as they posted a 4-21 overall record. And while Jackson County is poised to show improvement this season, the Panthers can expect to meet some resistance along the way.
Jackson County will have to contend with top Region 8-AAA teams several times during the regular season. Morgan County, Elbert County and Franklin County posted a combined overall record of 62-24.
“Every team in our region will be tough this year,” said DeFoor. “Morgan, Elbert, Hart and Franklin are all very talented. Oconee hired an outstanding coach, and they will make great strides. North Oconee and East Jackson swept us last year.
Every game for us will be a challenge just to compete. Notwithstanding, our greatest challenge will be within our own program. Players have to buy into our overall process as opposed to winning games, qualifying for the playoffs, etc. Coming off a 4-21 season, we have to become mentally tough before we can expect to see any improvement on the court.”
The Panthers went 4-21 playing this very talented sophomore and junior class. They return the largest group of seniors we have seen in awhile. A lot of experience on the court and this should be fun to watch. Look for big things from this group. Go Panthers!