(Franklin, GA) — Like every year, a comprehensive grasp of fundamentals was the main objective for Helen Akins and her young Heard County High School girls’ basketball team this summer.
The Lady Braves spent the better part of their June schedule participating in a handful of play-dates against local foes, as well as shoring up on their skills through various camps.
Most of the work that they put in, however, was done amongst themselves through morning workouts in their home gym.
“We have what we call ‘Breakfast Club,’ where we work on ball-handling, shooting and just fundamental skills three days a week,” Akins said.
“Our younger players are coming along fundamentally and that’s what we try to focus on in the summer. We really try to take the summer to work on those fundamentals because you just don’t have time once the season starts, which is why we don’t really do a lot of stuff of offense. We’re trying to make them better skilled individually so we can be better as a team.”
Like last season, Akins still had a relatively young roster to work with throughout the month of June with graduated seniors Sage Kelley, Emily Iddins and Alexis Nelms being the only departures from last year’s Class AA playoff squad.
In their place are four key returnees, all of whom she’s grooming to lead the way.
“Haley Bennett is a senior. She was a good shooter for us last year and she’ll do that again,” Akins said.
“Tori Caldwell is going to be big for us this year in the post area because she’s super quick, athletic and a really hard worker. Sophia Long is a sophomore who’s going to be taking over at the point. Finally, senior Morgan Kay is a really good shooter who we’re going to rely on. We’re looking for big things from those four kids.”
On top of the returning starters, she went over some of the newcomers who could make a difference in their first year of varsity action.
“We have a sophomore in Lindsey Glover that didn’t get to play last year because she had a knee injury. She’s back and has got some size, so she will be able to help us in the post area,” Akins said. “We have a ninth-grader coming up from the middle school, Mykhia Echols, who’s also a post player. She’ll be one of our bigger kids.”
(Photo: Heard County Lady Braves Basketball on Facebook)
Scrimmage-wise, Heard tested itself in play-dates against Oak Mountain and Haralson County, but the highlight of the summer came when crossing state lines with a trip to Pell City, Alabama.
“We went to Pell City for a team camp. It’s all Alabama schools plus us and the girls did really well,” Akins said. “Sophia Long finished in what they call the ‘Super 5,’ where they take the best player from each position and make a super team. She was the point guard that they chose, so I was super proud of her. Kids like Morgan Kay had a great camp, while other kids like incoming freshman Abigail Lathrop won station awards.”
This week’s GHSA-mandated ‘dead period’ didn’t mark the end of the summer for the Lady Braves as they are set to return with another series of workouts along with one final play-date versus Central on tap.
From there, the veteran HC head coach hopes that her ballclub will be fundamentally sound enough for the start of the 2018-19 campaign this fall.
“After the dead week, we’ll still come in the morning three days a week and work on fundamentals. We’ll be done on the 17 of July,” Akins said.
“I’ve been super proud of all of their effort this summer. I think that we’ve come along really strong and I think that we’re going to be a quick team. If we keep putting in the work, then I think that we’ll be very competitive.”