Bradwell Institute is ready to accept any challenge the boys’ basketball season may bring.
Head coach Rhett Hellgren said the team will have senior leadership, but is junior heavy with a few sophomores and the welcome addition of what he called the best group of incoming freshmen he’s seen in a while.
“I really like the personality of this team,” he said. “They are willing to come in the mornings and work and they work hard. We had a rough season last year due to injuries and other issues, but this year looks to be a lot better.”
Hellgren said he is looking forward to getting seniors Duane Johnson and Deion Stewart back into the rotation once football is over, as well as Trevon McCoy who sat out last season but played for Hellgren as a sophomore. Seniors Trayvon Martin and Desmond Oglesby played some varsity minutes last season and are expected to return as well.
The incoming juniors were the core of the varsity last season as sophomores and Hellgren said he expects them to make an impact again this season, especially guards George Mitchell and Taurua Dennard.
“Everybody we play will be a threat, besides George and Taurus. But they are the two that got significant playing time last year,” Hellgren said. “I expect big things from both, but the key to our season will be George. But I will add that our freshmen group is unbelievable.”
They are doing so well that Hellgren said many of the freshmen and sophomores are practicing with the varsity.
He added that incoming sophomore Jaylon McNair had a great summer. Also expected to step up is incoming junior Darryll Johnson who also had limited playing time last season.
The Tigers battled through an unsavory 4-23 overall mark and 3-10 Region 3-AAAAA record last year. Hellgren said it was a tough for the boys who fought every inch of every game.
He said he’s received a ton of support from his current staff which includes assistant coach Jeff Polk and new assistant coach Dana King Jr.
He added he also received support from Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker.
“She is likely the reason I am sane right now,” Hellgren said. “Faye and I decided to do everything together this season. That is how well we work together and she has been very supportive after last year’s rough season.”
This year will be the first time in roughly three that the Tiger girls and boys will travel to holiday tournaments together.
The team starts the season Tuesday, hosting Wayne County. The girls tip-off at 6 p.m. and the boys play immediately afterward.
On Saturday, the Tigers will host Liberty County High School beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The teams will travel to Savannah Nov. 24-25 for the Joe Greene Classic just before Thanksgiving break.
Bradwell Institute starts girls’ basketball season Tuesday, hosting Wayne County and the Lady Tigers are poised to have a strong season.
The bulk of the starters are returning seniors who have been with Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker for four years.
“Except for Brianna (Johnson) they’ve all been in my program for four years and know what is expected from them,” Baker said. “Their leadership right now has been remarkable.”
Johnson, an incoming senior, is in her third year. Seniors Shania Eldridge, Journae Young, Raina Richardson and Autiana Hightower are four-year veterans.
Baker said she also happy with the younger players.
“We have a lot of young kids that are practicing with our varsity players right now,” she said, naming freshmen Jasmine Blevins, Brianna Shuman and Epiranza Castro. “These kids will probably play some solid minutes on the varsity level. They have a lot of potential and we want to develop them as quick as we can because I am thinking about the future. I just believe the more players you can develop and the deeper your roster is the better off your team is going to be.”
Baker said she has several solid sophomores in Cheyenne Arnong, Sabrea Greene and Tamia Clark who also practice with the varsity.
Baker said returning junior Alyssa McDuffie had a tremendous summer and is turning into a valuable sharp-shooter. The Lady Tigers also acquired Ashante Harris, a transfer from Liberty.
“She is a junior who will be able to help our inside game,” Baker said.
Last season, the Lady Tigers went 13-13 overall and 5-7 in Region 3-AAAAA.
“Our region is always very competitive,” she said. “Brunswick is going to be good. Effingham and South Effingham are going to be good. Coffee County is always athletic. And Glynn is going to be good. Statesboro is well coached and has a good program. And Richmond Hill is a good program and coach. So every night in our region it is going to be competitive for us.”
The coach said the team struggled being consistent last season and that has been a focus during off-season training. Players kept busy over the summer playing in leagues and shoot outs, and attending camps at Armstrong and Mercer University.
“We ended up playing around 25 games in a month’s time so we ended up playing a season in a month’s time,” she said.
This year, the Lady Tigers will play in the Joe Green Classic Nov. 24-25 and the Savannah Holiday Classic. Baker said the Classic might let them play teams they normally don’t play.
And this season the focus is on defense.
“We need to establish our defense and play defense with a lot more intensity,” Baker said. “Our defense can jumpstart our offense. We are trying to make defense our forte.”
The coach said this season she plans to expand the stats kept to include deflections, loose balls and others.
“Anytime you can do something like that it is disruptive to the opposing team,” she said. “Offensively, we are going to focus on running our sets,” she said. “We have a tendency to not run our offense the way we should so we will focus on running our sets completely and play team ball.”
The Lady Tigers’ first game year Tuesday starts at 6. On Saturday, the Tigers host Liberty County at 6:30 p.m.