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BA ready to make a run
GATORS 6 col bw
Jordan Walker (21) leads a host of Gators who return to the court this season for Bulloch Academy. BA opens its season tonight at 7 p.m. against Briarwood Academy. - photo by FILE
    Last season, the Bulloch Academy boys’ basketball team went a perfect 10-0 in the region play and swaggered through the season-ending tournament to capture its first region title in 15 years.
    With a roster full of returning players, some talented transfers and a few new faces, the Gators could be poised to rise to even greater heights this season.
    “We’ve got a chance to have a good season,” said head coach Chandler Dennard as his Gators take on the Briarwood Academy Buccaneers in their season opener tonight at 7 p.m. “We’ve got the talent to be really good. A lot of it depends on the kids. I put it squarely on their shoulders one day at practice. How good we are depends on how hard they work, team chemistry and their willingness to accept their roles. If they are willing to be a true team, we’ve got a chance to be really good.”
    The Lady Gators, who are already an impressive 2-0, take on the Lady Bucs at 5:30 p.m. with B-team boys’ action kicking off the afternoon’s activities at 4 p.m.
    Seniors Jordan Walker, Will Powell, Mark Rocker and Darion Carter will lead a talented group of Gators in a fast-paced, up-tempo style of play on the hardwood.
    Walker and Powell are returning starters while Rocker was the sixth man. Powell was voted to the Class AA All-State team while both he and Walker were named to the Region 2-AA squad. Carter transferred to Bulloch during football season.
    Running point will be German foreign exchange student Arne Bencker. A junior who hails from Iserlohn, Germany, Bencker was a member of the Nordrhein Westfalen team, a state all-star squad which won the German national championship.
    Big men Paul Son, a sophomore, and Jonathan Williamson, a junior, help give the Gators an imposing lineup.
    “Darion gives us a true power forward,” said Dennard. “He’s not just tall but he can run. We can also move him outside as a guard and bring in Jonathan and Paul. At 6-6 (Son), 6-4 (Carter) and 6-4 (Williamson), that makes for a pretty good-sized lineup.”
      Others who will see playing time include junior Chan Newton, sophomore Taylor Burke and junior Casey Webb. A talented group of freshmen, which include Win Lee, Zach Altany, Ellis Lane, Brandon Walker and Davis Howell, give Dennard athletic depth on his bench.
    “We’ll play at least 10 people,” said Dennard. “We’ll be shuffling them in and out pretty regularly because of our style of play. If the kids play with the kind of intensity I want them, they should be playing no more than four minutes at a time. If they can play more than that in one stretch, either they are in tremendous shape or they are not playing with the intensity that I want.”
     Dennard stresses an aggressive, in-your-face style with plenty of running, gunning, man defense and pressure.
    “We’ve got three different presses that we will run,” he said. “We want to be able to dictate the action. We want to make a team adjust to our style of play.”
    As a coach, Dennard sees himself as blessed with this year’s squad.
    “From top to bottom,” he said, “this is by far the biggest team I’ve ever had. We’ve got a lot of talent. Practices have been very competitive. If one guy is not getting it done on the court, I’ve got another waiting for his chance. We could possibly have a different leading scorer every game.”
    Whatever happens, says Dennard, is the responsibility of his players.
    “Basketball is a true team game,” he said. “I’ve got something on my desk that says, ‘It’s amazing what a team can do when no one cares who gets the credit.’ I’m really excited about the possibilities that the season holds. But, it’s all up to the guys. They’ve got to come together as a team with everyone understanding his role. If we do that, we will be in good shape.”
    Bulloch’s girls won the second annual Lady Gator Classic last week in convincing fashion as head coach Paul Webb got solid performances team-wide.
    In the two games, juniors Kinsley Mallard poured in 21 points while classmate Kaylee Lanier netted 18. Sophomores Kate Anna Akins and Sally Smith scored 12 points each while both senior Abi Foy and junior Addie Reddick chipped in 10. Lanier also captured 16 rebounds in the two-game sweep while sophomore Heaven Hinton had nine. The Lady Gators had 57 steals (Akins 12, Lanier 10) and capitalized on 66 turnovers.