The Yellow Jackets struggled in the first two games of their own two-day tournament at Southeast Bulloch Friday morning. SEB played in the third annual Southeast Bulloch Coastal Empire Shootout, a two-day basketball tournament that serves as a fundraiser for the basketball program.
SEB lost to Effingham County in its first game, followed by a loss to Jenkins County in the second game of the day.
Assistant head coach Josh McGruder said his team played poorly in the first few games, but is excited to see some of the team’s young talent develop over the summer.
“We’ve been playing really bad lately, but we do have some guys that we feel will provide a spark for us,” McGruder said after his team's losses.
One of the up-and-coming talents that could be a spark for the Yellow Jackets this season is freshman Jontrell Wells. A standout on the middle school football team, Wells is the son of former SEB basketball star Jonathan Wells.
The elder Wells was a part of one of the most successful boys basketball teams to come out of Southeast Bulloch.
“He’s following right in his father’s footsteps,” said SEB boys basketball head coach John Page. “But (Jontrell) Wells might be a little more physically tough than his dad was.”
Wells has had a trial-by-fire experience in the start of his early high school basketball career. Wells was inserted into the starting lineup for the Yellow Jackets throughout the course of the summer league schedule.
“He’s started for us and he hasn’t even taken a high school class yet,” McGruder said in jest. “He’s a guy we’re really expecting some good things out of.”
As far as returning players go, Joseph Anderson said he feels pretty good about the team’s chances to compete as the summer league progresses.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound post player for the Jackets is known for his physical play in the low post. Anderson said he’d like to see his teammates become more aggressive, which should help the team become a better unit.
“I feel like we’re improving every year. Me and my team are doing alright together but we have to continue to work hard and keep pushing. We can’t give up,” Anderson said. “We just need to get together and talk. We all need to improve and learn from our past.”
The Yellow Jackets finished the season 12-16, just missing a chance to go to the state playoffs.
SEB’s tournament is a chance for the players to develop a bond and work together as a unit, McGruder said.
“I want to get the whole team to get aggressive,” Anderson said after playing a game and a half on the first day of tournament action. “I’d love to see the whole team come in and crash boards and get aggressive with me. It can’t be just a few people. It has to be the bench players and the ones that are starting.”
Anderson is missing the presence of fellow big man Caleb Carter. Carter is currently focused on football summer camps, McGruder said.
The Yellow Jackets will play two more games tomorrow to close out the SEB shootout tournament.
McGruder said the team will play close to 35 to 40 games in a month.
“It’s grueling, but it’s basketball and this is what I love to do,” McGruder said. “I can’t complain.”
Horace Holloman may be reached at (912) 489-9408.