Whether it’s key veterans graduating or younger players stepping into larger roles, the dynamics of a team can change from year to year.
As has been the case for several summers now, Jason Robinson is utilizing the dog days of June to get an idea of what will spell success for this particular Villa Rica High School boys’ basketball team come the winter campaign.
The Wildcats are currently in the middle of their two-week long camp tour, hitting the court for scrimmages against several area foes.
With a mix of familiar and new faces donning the Purple and Gold this summer, the veteran VR head coach wants to get an early peek of what he has to work with several months before the 2018-19 season officially tips off.
“We’re super-young and are playing a lot of different guys,” Robinson said. “We’ve got a lot of big holes to fill, but we’re looking forward to seeing what we can do. I’d like to see some of our younger guys step up and play solid minutes both offensively and defensively.”
After a few days of practice, the Cats got their summer slate started last week when they went head-to-head with host Temple at the two-day Temple Team Camp.
Robinson would’ve liked to have seen more intensity on defense from his crew against the neighboring Tigers, but acknowledged that lapses in focus are to be expected when a team is stepping onto the hardwood for the first time in four months.
“We have to see maximum effort on the defensive end. We didn’t see that in the second half of the (Temple) game and were just kind of going through the motions. We were where we were supposed to be, but the intensity wasn’t there. We weren’t getting on the floor to get after loose balls and things like that,” Robinson said.
The head coach noted how his Cats’ success will lie in the approach that they take on the defensive side of the court, something they will troubleshoot this summer.
“We’ve got to be able to get stops in halfcourt sets for us to be successful, plain and simple. How we do that is still up for debate,” Robinson noted. “Last year, we played mostly man. This year, it’s probably going to be a combination of man and some trapping stuff to create more scoring opportunities for us.”
Roster-wise, the Wildcats will be figuring out ways to replace central figures from their 24-3 campaign last season, veterans like departed seniors J.J. Franklin, Latrell Swanigan and 2017-18 Times-Georgian All-Area MVP Javonte Hart.
But in their absence, a trio of experienced upperclassmen in guard Caleb Smith, forward Micah Hodges and 2017-18 Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year Phillip Zachery are all getting the necessary reps needed as the main cogs of this year’s team.
“Those are three guys who have played a lot of minutes,” Robinson said. “Phillip is the only returning starter and Caleb and Micah played a lot of huge minutes off the bench. Those three guys are going to be cornerstones for us both offensively and defensively.”
He also went into other guys who he’s anticipating big contributions from moving forward.
“Jeffrey Dudley is a guy that we’re expecting to step up and play well for us,” Robinson said. “Xavion Sparks, Demarcus Blount and Romell Swanigan are also guys we’re expecting big things from as they play big minutes. We’ve got a lot of pieces and it’s a matter of putting them together as a cohesive unit. If we can develop a chemistry with one another, then we’ll be all right.”
Finishing up with a trip to South Paulding on June 19, the schedule this month features a few play-dates at home, along with hikes to Oxford, Alabama, Alexander, Paulding County and Rockmart, which hired former VR assistant Vic Calhoun as its head coach in the spring.
Robinson felt it would be best to keep his guys in the area for this summer.
“We’re not going off to a big camp this summer, so it’ll be local for the most part,” Robinson said. “From a financial standpoint, you get more for your money if you’re playing local schools within an hour of your own gym instead of going overnight to somewhere like Birmingham Southern, Auburn, Georgia or places like that. Plus, we have a lot of kids playing football this year, so we’ll be sharing them.”
Regardless of where they play or the roster turnover, the VR head coach is confident that it won’t take long for this group of Wildcats to pick right up from where last year’s team left off.
“With so many kids transferring, it’s tough from one year to the next just to maintain some type of continuity,” Robinson said. “I feel like we’ll be competitive and that’s all you can ask for nowadays.”