Some area high school basketball teams have already begun the 2020-21 season, and a few others are about to tip things off.
For the Statesboro Blue Devils this season marks the coaching debuts at Statesboro High for Keith LeGree and Marty Holder.
LeGree was the first McDonald's All American from Statesboro, and helped guide the Blue Devils to the State Championship in 1991. He takes over for his former coach and mentor in Lee Hill who passed away over the summer.
“It’s been an emotional few month for sure,” said LeGree. “Losing a person that was like another father to me in Coach Hill was devastating. I felt like I needed to come home, and I have been overwhelmed by the amount of love the people around here have shown me.”
LeGree has plenty of college coaching experience and comes to Statesboro after a stint at the University of Detroit Mercy. LeGree has tried his best to get to know the players on the team, and has retained longtime Hill assistant Horace Harvey to help with the transition.
“Horace has been a great help,” said LeGree. “I have brought in my own offense and defensive schemes, but he has helped me to know what the kids are like, and we are working hard to get things implemented.”
LeGree is hopeful that the players will catch onto things, but feels like there is plenty of talent in this year's group.
“We have some things to build around,” LeGree said. “I’d like us to be a little but tougher. I think we have guys who can play, but I am someone who needs them to be tough physically and mentally. That is something we are continuing to work on.”
The Blue Devils play Tuesday at Vidalia at 5:30 against West Laurens.
Marty Holder is replacing Jeff Seier who stepped down after a successful tenure as the Lady Blue Devils head coach. Holder was one of Coach Hill’s assistant coaches, but has head coaching experience as well, although he admits it’s been a while since he has coached a girls' team.
“I had forgotten what it was like to coach girl’s high school basketball,” said Holder. “I coached at Beach around 2003, and it all kind of came back over the summer. I have girls at home, and I’m used to being around girls, so these are like my girl’s now.”
The Blue Devils won the region last season and have been a regular member of the state playoffs. The Blue Devils lost leading scorer Lacy Robins but return plenty of talent, and should compete for a region title this year as well.
“We have a lot of talent returning,” said Holder. “We have four of our starters back, and I think we will have more depth than most teams. We could have a potential starting lineup where besides our starting point guard, the rest of the starters could be 5-9, 5-11, 6-0 and 6-3. That’s a lot of size, but they are also pretty athletic and can shoot.”
The Blue Devils won their season opener 71-26 over West Laurens and will take on Vidalia Tuesday at 7:00 in the Tip-Off Classic in Vidalia.
The Southeast Bulloch Yellow Jacket boys and girls showed plenty of progress last season, and are hoping to build on that this year.
For the boy's head coach Matt Kuykendall has another year under his belt, and some key players back from last year's team who just missed out on advancing to the state tournament in arguably the toughest Class-AAA region in the state.
“We have a really solid core of guys who have conditioned all summer,” said Kuykendall. “They came for 6 a.m. small group workouts all through fall, and have really come together and created a great culture in the early season so far.
“We certainly have some potentially key guys at football, but right now we feel like we’ve got everything we need to compete in this region even before they’re back,” said Kuykendall. Region-3 AAA is the toughest region in the state hands down. Windsor Forest and Johnson are No. 2 and No. 3 in the state, and there’s not a let-up night against anyone else. We play arguably the toughest schedule in AAA of anyone, and we love it.”
The Jackets are 1-0 on the season and will next host Camden County December 1st.
The Lady Jackets advanced to the state last year, in first year head coach Meredith Belcher’s first season. Belcher is looking to improve on that this season, even though the Jackets lost a couple of key senior starters.
“We are young returning only two starters,” said Belcher. We are looking for good things from Ansleigh Littles, a sophomore ball handler and shooting guard and Katy Fuller who is a senior forward. We are mostly freshmen and sophomores. Our region is always tough with Johnson and Beach in the mix. Adding Liberty County to our region this year will be new for us. I was very proud of our first appearance at South Effingham. The girls showed a lot of heart and determination.”
Southeast Bulloch is 0-1 and will host Camden County Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.