Bryan County at Southeast Bulloch
6 p.m., Today, Brooklet
BROOKLET — As Southeast Bulloch tips off the 2013-14 season tonight against Bryan County, the boys team knows that it is in for another challenging season, but has high hopes that it can continue to improve.
Last season saw the Yellow Jackets make the jump up to Class AAA. SEB had struggled in previous seasons and seemed doomed in a region that contained both the state champion and runner-up, but a more experienced Jacket squad managed to win nine games in the hyper-competitive Region 1-AAA.
This time around, SEB hopes to see even more improvement.
“Going up against teams like Johnson and Savannah is still going to be a tremendous challenge,” Southeast Bulloch coach John Page said. “It is for everyone. The region is going to be tough again, but we think that we can compete. Last year, we saw the measuring stick and we know where we have to be.”
The Yellow Jackets’ biggest challenge this season will be replacing graduated scoring leader Devante Tremble.
Fortunately, SEB also returns three starters in forward Kaelin Jones and guards Matt McBride and Preston Smith.
In addition to getting more shots, Smith will also assume the point guard role and direct the Jackets’ half-court offense.
With those three starters returning, the SEB bench has swelled up with more talent than in past seasons. At times last year, the Jackets tried to get through games with a rotation of just six or seven players.
This season, they’ll be able to hit the gas when necessary.
“Against some of the great offenses we play, we’ll still try to hold the ball and slow the game down,” Page said. “More depth will help us when we want to run though. We want to get up and down the floor a little more this year. Being able to play a few more guys will help us stay fresh late in games.
“Right now, it’s not clear where all of the offense will come from. I’m confident we’ll find it. It’s just a matter of how the points are going to spread out.”
Lady Jackets picking up steam
Last season marked a huge turnaround for the Southeast Bulloch girls.
After over a decade of struggles, a solid core of scorers led SEB to a fourth place region finish in their first season competing at the Class AAA level.
Jasmine Roberts was able to single-handedly take over games last season and topped 30 points four times in region competition. Philicia Batton also provides a strong veteran presence as SEB begins its regular season tonight.
“I feel like we had a very good offseason,” SEB coach Johnnie Miller said. “(Roberts) went off to Texas to play and also played some tough competition in Atlanta. We looked good in summer league and had great participation in the weight program.”
With several Jackets returning from injuries that cost them most of the 2012-13 season, a handful of freshmen ready to make an immediate impact, and Destiny Burke transferring in from Bulloch Academy, the Jackets hope to avoid last season’s depth issues.
Southeast Bulloch has shown flashes of talent in previous seasons, but finally put it all together last spring. Winning can be an acquired taste and the Jackets hope that this season’s squad can take last year’s success and continue with it from the opening tip tonight.
“You can tell that things are a little different,” Miller said. “All of the girls are excited and interest in the program has picked up with the younger players and even at the middle school level. That’s important if you want to win consistently.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.