Basketball season is getting a jump start Saturday with Bradwell’s teams facing Coffee County for scrimmages in Douglas.
The girls’ game will tip off at 3 p.m. and the boys’ game will follow.
Lady Tigers breakdown
Lady Tiger coach Faye Baker is entering her eighth consecutive year as the girls head coach while the boys will be guided by new coach Rhett Hellgren.
Baker said she has three returning senior starters in Kelissa Hargrove, Leitia Leiataua and Kayla Rocker. Junior standout guard and shooter Shaquioa Crockett is set to return, as is junior Akeyla Richardson, who had valuable minutes on varsity last year. In addition, Baker has juniors Selena Manies, Aleecia Futch and Lastacea Flemings stepping up and a new foreign-exchange student, Irene Mena.
Rounding out the varsity roster are sophomores Kieria Martin, Javaughna Claridy and transfer student Whitney Anderson.
Baker said her squad again lacks in size, “but we do have some good guards, and they are working well.”
Baker said Saturday’s scrimmage is an evaluation tool. The girls have only practiced for 10 days and are just trying to increase their conditioning.
“We will not be completely basketball-ready but it will give us a starting point of what are strengths and weaknesses are,” Baker said. “It will be a good evaluation for us so we really know what we need to work on coming into the following week when the regular season starts.”
The regular season starts Nov. 17. This season, Baker added a few big games outside of Georgia.
The Tigers will play in Jacksonville and visit P.K. Yong in Gainesville.
“Our main objective is to get out there and expose our players to different areas so if we are fortunate enough to get into the post season … many times you are playing teams that you don’t know a whole lot about, and you have to adjust in the game accordingly, so this gives us a chance to do that,” Baker said.
She added that it will feel strange not playing against all the Savannah Public Schools they have become accustomed to playing in region games.
Jenkins, Groves and Windsor Forest remain region opponents this season, but Beach, BI’s long-time and most competitive rival, will be just another game on the schedule.
“It will still be a hot game because Beach and I are just rivals from way back,” she said. “And it’s always been a good rivalry, and it’s always been a measuring tool for me because I have so much respect for coach (Ronald) Booker and his program. It always lets me know pretty much where we stand when we play Beach. We definitely did not want to eliminate that completely.”
Baker is looking forward to the new matchups this season with Ware County, Richmond Hill, Glynn Academy, Effingham County and others.
“I’m excited about the new region and getting a chance to see new teams, and there are still some competitive teams in this region…I am fully aware of that. It definitely won’t be a cakewalk for us,” she said
Tigers have new coach
While Tiger coach Pete Woodard is taking a step back this season to tend to a medical situation, Hellgren has stepped up as the coach and is excited about the opportunity.
“The kids have responded well,” he said. “They were hesitant at first … it is hard for change. I’ve known Coach Woodard for a long time, but his personality and my personality are completely different. But I’m not the new kid on the block. Stuff is coming back, and I’ve kept in touch with some coaches and I’m confident. I am very excited, and I think the kids are excited, too.”
Hellgren was the girls’ basketball coach at Long County for some time and later coached boys for seven years at Bradwell under David Jones. He said he isn’t placing too much emphasis on Saturday’s scrimmage because he still has players suiting up for football, but he added he wants a strong season.
“My expectations are very high, just as they are for anything that I do,” he said. “We are going to play hard-nosed defense and hustle, and you can’t always teach that. It has to come from the heart and from effort.”
He said the boys aren’t big in size, but he has several strong guards this season. The one area he thinks might be a problem is hitting the boards.
“Rebounding is going to be our No. 1 issue,” he said. “If we can’t rebound, we will be in deep trouble, so we’ve been working on a lot of rebound drills.”