New­ton County All-Stars to draw, girls roll

The Covington News - - Front page - Josh Briggs Sports Edi­tor

New­ton High School bas­ket­ball has a rich tra­di­tion. From the school’s state cham­pi­onship in 1964 to the three straight re­gion champi- on­ships from 1981-83 to its Fi­nal Four run of last year, the Rams have stood the test of time of gen­er­a­tional gaps and the chang­ing land­scape of the county. The pro­gram’s suc­cess can be at­trib­uted in large part to the men who have coached the teams.

One of those great coaches, Billy Hen­dricks, passed away Mon­day af­ter a long battle with Parkin­son’s disease. Hen­dricks was 67.

Hen­dricks took over for Richard Porter in 1995 af- ter sev­eral down years for the Rams and im­me­di­ately reestab­lished New­ton as a win­ning pro­gram. Hen­dricks won nearly 70 per­cent of his games as the Rams’ floor gen­eral. In six years at New­ton, Hen­dricks amassed a 113-46 record (.710) in­clud­ing three-straight 20-win sea­sons from 1999-2001.

The high­light of Hen­dricks’ time at New­ton came dur­ing the 2000-01 sea­son when he led the Rams to the Re­gion 8-AAAA cham- pi­o­nship. It was New­ton’s first re­gion ti­tle since the 1983-84 sea­son. De­spite the Rams’ reg­u­lar-sea­son and re­gion tour­na­ment suc­cess that year, New­ton was up­set

From Page 1B in the first round of the Class AAAA play­offs. The Rams, who had risen to No. 1 in the state, were ranked No. 3 and fin­ished with a 24-5 record.

“Coach (Billy) Hen­dricks was a loyal coach and teacher at New­ton and at many other schools in Ge­or­gia for 30 years. He was a per­sonal friend and fel­low coach and he will be deeply missed,” cur­rent New­ton coach Rick Ras­mussen said.

Hen­dricks re­tired in 2001 and moved to back to his na­tive Com­merce where he re­mained ac­tive in high school bas­ket­ball as part of the Ge­or­gia Ath­letic Coaches As­so­ci­a­tion. He was a fre­quent visi­tor to state play­off games de­spite be­ing con­fined to a wheel chair in re­cent years. The GACA All-Star game MVP tro­phy is named in his honor. In a ca­reer span­ning 30 years at seven schools, Hen­dricks com­piled a 414293 (.585) record.

Be­sides the re­gion ti­tle in 2001, Hen­dricks legacy at New­ton can be found in some of the play­ers he coached. For­mer Iowa State star Kantrail Hor­ton (NHS ’96) and for­mer Divi­sion 1 play­ers Mike Ben­ton (NHS ’99) and Alex Aded­iron (NHS ’01) played at New­ton dur­ing Hen­dricks’ ten­ure. Hor­ton played in the NCAA Tour­na­ment in 2000 and 2001 and Ben­ton left New­ton as the all-time leader in blocks be­fore land­ing at Col­lege of Charleston. Ben­ton is still play­ing pro­fes­sional bas­ket­ball in Europe.

Ras­mussen, who was an as­sis­tant un­der Hen­dricks for three years and might have ended up with the job in 2002 be­fore leg­endary New­ton coach Ron Bradley re­turned to the side­lines, ded­i­cated the 2006 sea­son to his for­mer men­tor af­ter learn­ing of the sever­ity of his disease. The Rams also paid tribute to Hen­dricks in De­cem­ber when they played in the Wingslinger Hol­i­day Bash Christ­mas tour­na­ment at East Jack­son. It was the last time Ras­mussen saw Hen­dricks and each of his play­ers in­tro­duced them­selves and shook the for­mer New­ton floor gen­eral’s hand.

“As a coach, Billy was men­tally tough on his play­ers but also would do any­thing for them,” Ras­mussen said. “His play­ers were very loyal to him and ap­pre­ci­ated his tough love be­cause they knew he cared. He was a men­tor to me and was very suc­cess­ful in his six years at New­ton. We had some very suc­cess­ful sea­sons to­gether and he will be missed.”

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