Bulloch Academy boys basketball head coach Chance Cofield had to feel like it was Christmas Day when he inherited a Gator basketball team full of talent and depth last season. In his first year as Gator head coach Cofield led Bulloch Academy to the GISA Final Four where it ran into a buzzsaw in Holy Spirit which bounced the Gators out of the playoffs and ended their title run.
Fast forward to this year, and Christmas Day more resembles what happened with the Grinch, as all of his presents have been taken away. Cofield lost six seniors from last year’s team, and will be relying on many of his previous J.V. players to contribute major minutes this season.
“We are definitely rebuilding this season,” Cofield said. “Four of our six seniors last year started, and most of them were multi- year starters.”
The Gators' most significant returning players are senior Will Aaron, who contributed primarily defensively, and sophomore Rodney Hill, who came on strong mid season, but will miss close to two months with a knee injury suffered during football season.
“Will logged a lot of minutes last year, and when we get Rodney back he will be a great help,” Cofield said. “We are counting a lot on junior Miller Pope, who played well for us over the summer, and a few others who played primarily on the junior varsity last season.”
“It’s going to be a much different team than last year,” Cofied said. “Our goal is still to win the region, and I think we can still do that this year. We are going to have to play a lot more of a slow offense, and more of a half court offense than the way we ran so much last year.”
Cofield is stressing more on the defensive end of the floor this season, and is hoping that lower numbers on the scoreboard will result in more W’s in the win column.
“We won a lot of low scoring games over the summer when we played,” Cofield said. “Hopefully we can run when we can, but I feel like our success is going to be tied more to what we do on the defensive side than to what we do on offense.”
The Bulloch Academy girls basketball team will be playing for their fourth coach in four years this season, but it will be a familiar name. Chandler Dennard left his athletic director and head boys basketball coaching position a few years ago to take over as executive director at Willow Pond, but this year he is back on the court as he takes over the reigns as Lady Gators head coach.
“I have only ever coached boys basketball, but I did coach softball for a number of years, so coaching girls isn’t a totally new thing,” Dennard said. “Our style will probably be a little more fast paced than what they have been used to, but they seem to be catching on pretty well.”
Dennard has the luxury of having four returning starters, and some young talented players that should help give him depth.
“Our top four scorers all return,” Dennard said. We will be led by Abby Newton, who will miss a few weeks recovering from a hamstring injury. We will need some of our other returning starters like Regan Ellis, Kacie Ricketts and Leah Williford to step up until we get Abby back.”
“I like what I have seen from some of the younger girls like Sophie Strickland, Sophie Wall and Mary Mac Powell. They will all get playing time while Abby is out and that will build us a lot of depth.”
“I have kind of made my living on the defensive side of the court,” Dennard said. “I hope if nothing else we defend well. We have spent a lot of time on that, and I think that is where we have made the most gains since we started working together over the summer.”
The Gators opened the season Monday at Westminster Monday, and will open their home schedule Tuesday at home against Coastal Home School. The gors tip things off at 5 p.m.