Experience brings maturity, like losing brings humility.
After missing the state playoffs last season by one game, the North Gwinnett High boys’ basketball team had to do some soul searching. What the Bulldogs discovered was putting things in perspective and in order. Doing so will only help them achieve the goals they have as a team.
“We had to do some soul searching at the end of the season,” head coach Zach Smith said. “We had to get to the core of who we are. What we believed in. How we were going to approach work, practice and play.”
North Gwinnett was considered one of the favorites a year ago to contend for the Class AAAAAA state championship. It was a team loaded with talent but also full of inexperience. This all came to a head during the region tournament when Meadowcreek High upset the Bulldogs 57-55 missing the state tournament completely.
Disheartening defeat had North Gwinnett looking for answers. After the team met and got the core of its issues, the Bulldogs went to work. They worked on their mental approach on and off the court. Talking about responsibilities and development as young men and coaches. This was a team thing not an individual issue.
“We talked about what type of person and team we were,” Smith said. “It didn’t have to do much with skills level or athletic ability it was more along the line of mentality on how we were going to approach things.”
The message has been delivered and the players are responding. Smith is pleased with their work ethic, maturity and just their overall approach to being committed to each other, the program and doing everything to be successful this season.
“We are hopeful it continues and if it does we feel like we have a good chance,” he said.
It could also mean they will get an opportunity to play in and make the state playoffs.
LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 19-6
HEAD COACH: Zach Smith
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS: TJ Howard (JR), Ahmad Caver (SR), Owen Lewis (SR)(pictured), Kameron Calhoun (JR), Malik Carter (JR)
TOP NEWCOMERS: Josh Imatorbhebhe (SO), Daniel Imatorbhebhe (JR), Jay Stackhouse
NOTEABLE GAMES: Effingham County (Nov. 23), Greenforest Christian (Nov. 26), Nocross (Dec. 6), North Cobb Christian (Dec. 14), Norcross (Jan. 14)
PARTICIPATING TOURNAMENT/SHOWCASE: Jared Cook Tip-Off Classic (Nov. 23-26), GACS-Blue Collar Basketball (Dec. 14), Rotary Roundball Classic (Dec. 27-31), Wally Keller Classic (Jan. 17-18)
Robert Alfonso Jr.’s QUICK NOTES:
Experience is a key factor to the Bulldogs success this season. The team returns 12 players who were part of last seasons team (two seniors and 10 juniors). Tobias Howard Jr and Kameron Calhoun have started since their freshman season. … Senior guard Ahmad Caver, who has normally played off the ball the last few years and on the travel circuit, will have some point guard responsibilities this season. … Calhoun and Malik Carter will be valuable pieces to the Bulldogs scheme. The 6-foot-8 Carter will help provide stability on both ends of the floor. Calhoun is a lockdown defender who needs to continue improving defensively. … Zach Smith starts his fourth season as North Gwinnett’s head coach. In that time they have the Bulldogs have amassed a record of 58-26. … This is a good ball club, which has played many games with one another over the last few years. Look for them to stay near the top of the region as it positions itself to make a state championship run.
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