Sum­mer swag­ger

The Covington News - - Sports -

New­ton bas­ket­ball com­pletes an­other stel­lar sum­mer sched­ule

Josh Briggs

New­ton bas­ket­ball gets off to a fast start against its competition each fall pri­mar­ily be­cause of the work the Rams put in the sum­mer. As a team, New­ton works hard for the first month of the sum­mer be­fore break­ing camp so-tos­peak to en­joy the rest of the break. This year, the Rams went 17-1 in sum­mer competition in scrim­mages and team camp games with their only loss com­ing in the fi­nal game at the Geor- gia Col­lege team camp.

This year’s team also has the lux­ury of re­turn­ing sev­eral key play­ers from last year’s Re­gion 2-AAAAA cham­pi­onship team. Among them, Stephen Croone is play­ing his best bas­ket­ball as he led the Rams over the sum­mer in scor­ing with 18 points per game, of­ten only play­ing two-thirds of each game. The Rams will need all of Croone’s scor­ing af­ter los­ing two-time re­gion player of the year Der­rick Henry to grad­u­a­tion.

“Stephen is play­ing bet­ter than ever,” New­ton coach Rick Ras­mussen said. “Try­ing to find that one leader to re­place Der­rick may be nearly im­pos­si­ble, but we chal­lenged our four se­niors to step up and take the reigns. I was pleased with their progress in learn­ing to be lead­ers.”

The Rams won each game by an av­er­age of 20 points, al­low­ing ev­ery­one court time which should help ad­dress Ras­mussen’s pri­mary concern of depth come fall.

“We still need to work to get the less ex­pe­ri­enced guys to be more qual­i­fied to con­trib­ute and to learn our sys­tem a lit­tle bit bet­ter,” Ras­mussen said. “We need to im­prove our depth more than any­thing else at this point.”

Along with Croone, se­niors Justin Thompson, Shane Henry and Justin Gates all saw heavy ac­tion last year. Each has looked good so far this sum­mer with Henry garner­ing a lot of col­lege in­ter­est. Both Croone and Henry are on col­lege radars.

“Af­ter los­ing five se­niors who all con­trib­uted to our team’s suc­cess last sea­son,

in­clud­ing Der­rick, I did not know what to ex­pect from our team,” Ras­mussen said. “We lost some great lead­er­ship, but Stephen, JT, Shane, and Gates all stepped up to pro­vide what was lost.”

The sum­mers have al- ways been an im­por­tant fac­tor in New­ton’s suc­cess. Still, with the past two re­gion cham­pi­onship tro­phies in New­ton’s tro­phy case, there are seven other teams itch­ing to snatch that reign away. The sum­mer work­outs are just the start.

“I was pleased with the work our play­ers put in,” Ras­mussen said. “There are a lot of young play­ers com­ing up who have a lot of po­ten­tial. The fu­ture is bright for the New­ton bas­ket­ball.

“We are ex­cited about next sea­son and want to have a chance to pur­sue a third straight re­gion cham- pi­o­nship, some­thing that has not been done since 1981-83. We know that ev­ery­one will be gun­ning for us, so we need to keep work­ing to get bet­ter as next sea­son ap­proaches."

Sub­mit­ted photo

Lis­ten up:

New­ton coach rick Ras­mussen talks to his team dur­ing a time­out at the Ge­or­gia Col­lege team camp last week. The Rams went 17-1 dur­ing sum­mer camp and scrim­mage play.

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