The holiday season poses a prime opportunity for the youth-driven Carrollton High School boys' basketball team to test itself.
What a better way to do that than to serve host to seven challenging opponents from across the state for the annual Carrollton Christmas Tournament on Criswell Court this week.
Opening the tournament today at 7:30 p.m. against Douglass, interim head coach Paul Fitz-Simons is fully expecting a tough field of competitors that his young Trojans will have to face over the next three days.
"We start off with Douglass and hopefully we can win that one to play the winner of a game between a very athletic Martin Luther King team and a Troup team who has a stud averaging 30 points per game," Fitz-Simons said. "The bottom side of the bracket you've got Heard County, who coach (Keith) Simmons always does a good job with, alongside very athletic teams in Greenville, Druid Hills and Riverdale. This tournament will mark four games in four days for us, where we'll take a couple of days off for Christmas and turn right around to go to the Mary Persons Holiday Classic."
The uptick in games at this point of the season comes at the right time for a ballclub still figuring out its identity. For Fitz-Simons, putting them in a pressure-filled, tournament environment will serve as a good thing for his players in the long run.
"Our team is so young that, to me, it doesn't matter who you play because they've never been in certain situations before," Fitz-Simons said. "All you can ask for from these guys is for them to have a shot at the end of the game. With the exception of the St. Pius game, we've had that. That's all you can ask for."
While the early stages of the season may be a mixed bag of results, coaches like Fitz-Simons aren't expecting a perfect product on the floor at this point of the season. He wants to see his team start to emerge when the games matter the most and tournaments like these are the perfect avenue to bridge the gap.
"Everybody wants to be good now, but it's really not that important. You want to be good in February," Fitz-Simons said. "I don't think we're anywhere as good now as we'll be then."
Despite the team's inexperience, the interim coach has taken pleasure in seeing the team grow with guys like Isaiah Lancaster, Tim Green and Kaleb Clark step up each and every day. With the confidence that they're building, the players expect to be on the court Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for the championship.
'"There are expectations in the locker rooms and on the court every day and it's been cool to sit back and watch these grow because they know what it takes," Fitz-Simons said. "They expect to win and will do whatever it takes to get that 'W.'"