(Franklin, GA) — Summer is all about quality over quantity for Keith Simmons.
The third-year Heard County High School boys’ head basketball coach understands that opportunities to have all of his weapons in one place at one time are few and far between, so they’ve got to make the most of them when they are together.
Brave head coach Keith Simmons (Photo: Jessica Gallagher/Times-Georgian)
This week provided the first instance of that as the Braves opened their summer schedule at the Temple Team Camp, battling the likes of New Manchester and Central on Monday, followed by tilts with Bowdon and Temple in Tuesday’s finale.
“With the way summer is now, and you know how extended football season is these days, you’ve got to find that happy medium between playing games and then getting some time to discuss and look at how the games went,” Simmons said.
“So what we’re trying to do is play a week of games and then have a week of practice and then have another week of games and then have another week to evaluate those games.”
Another reason this time is so valuable is the fact that it very well could be the last chance to get everyone on the court together until December.
With the Braves making a run to the state semifinals on the gridiron last year and holding high expectations once again this fall, it makes for an abrupt transition to hoops season.
“When you have a good football program, you might not get everybody until the second week of December. By that time, especially with us adding Bremen to the region, you’re looking at region time as soon as they come in the door,” Simmons said.
“So it’s very important … We want to make sure we all know what we’re doing before everybody goes their separate ways. When the season comes, we want to make a run at this new region.”
The Braves return their catalyst from a season ago in rising senior point guard Alijah Huzzie, who led the team in all statistical categories, averaging 21.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 4.7 steals per game en route to all-state honors for a second straight season.
He will be joined by senior forward Tray Dunson, who plays with a junkyard dog mentality defensively and has also elevated his offensive game over the past year. Rounding out the senior class is Komari Clark and Will Hammett.
Beyond that it’s a promising core of underclassmen who have won the past two West Georgia Middle School “Small School” championships.
Rising sophomore forward Ayden Cannon got thrust into the starting lineup last year as a freshman, while fellow sophomores Khalil Cofield, Ethan Lawson and Ashton Bonner are also expected to be key contributors this winter.
Simmons is equally eager to watch the development of a trio of freshmen in guards Jameer Cook and Ty Smith and 6-foot-5 post Orrin Rowley.
“(Huzzie) had that great junior year last season and now we’re trying to put some pieces around him. We’ve had two good middle school teams back-to-back. Some of those guys were thrown into the fire of varsity last year, so they should be farther along than most sophomores. Then we’ve got a good freshman class with a couple of 6-4, 6-5 guys,” Simmons said.
Heard High Senior Tray Dunson (Photo: Jessica Gallagher/Times-Georgian)
Simmons is hopeful of getting 25-to-30 games in this summer between the Temple Team Camp, a team camp at Carrollton later this week and one at Auburn, along with play-dates against Bowdon and Oak Mountain.
With added size and depth to the roster, the Braves are looking to compete in a Region 5-AA this year that got tougher with the addition of Bremen moving down from Class AAA.
So even though the season is still months away, the next few weeks will be critical for Heard County in developing a chemistry between its talented underclassmen and the returning veterans who are leading the pack.
“The good thing is these two middle school teams that were back-to-back, they’re used to playing with each other,” Simmons said. “So now we need them to get used to playing with the seniors because they haven’t played with them. I think once we get all that together, we have a chance to do some good things.”