For the last few years, the question hasn’t been whether or not Statesboro can succeed, but rather how far it can go.
With a few trips to the state tournament under its belt, Statesboro enters the 2011-12 season as a veteran squad, but will have to replace some huge contributors to maintain the string of success that it has accomplished in recent years.
The last two seasons have seen the Blue Devils led by Jaqawn Raymond, but Raymond is now graduated and Statesboro must find some new leaders if it wants to continue to be a force in Region 2-AAAA play.
“The good news is that we have a lot of experienced players coming back this season,” said SHS coach Lee Hill. “Last season, we ran into a lot of box-and-one because of Jaqawn. This season, I think that we can be a more balanced team and have more guys contributing every night.”
Hill hopes for more offensive options this year and will have plenty of options in a lineup that looks to be very versatile for the Blue Devils.
Over the last few seasons, size and a presence down low have been recurring issues for Statesboro. The Devils still don’t feature anyone over 6-foot-4, but a wealth of athletic players just over six feet tall will allow the Devils to run the court without giving up a huge size advantage.
Looking at the lineup, Zaquavian Smith and Yakeem Coleman stand to pick up a lot of points that Raymond is no longer around to score. Both shoot well from the outside and Smith — though just a freshman last season — looked fearless in driving the lane.
“We had a great summer and we’re ready to play,” Hill said. “A lot of guys that are coming back got to work in the weight room and got a little bigger. We’ve got a few new guys this season that will also help us out.”
As the season is set to begin, the Devils are working with a full squad — something that sounds great, but wasn’t what Hill was expecting. With a few football players also on the basketball roster, the team figured on another deep playoff run by the football team.
“It’s unfortunate that their season came to an end,” Hill said. “I was rooting for them to keep going and keep boosting school spirit. Now that football is done, we’re definitely glad to have everyone though.”
All hands will need to be on deck if the Devils want to continue to be a force in the very competitive Region 2-AAAA. Last season, Statesboro caught fire at the end of the regular season, then cruised into the region title game before falling just short of the championship.
“We know that it’s going to be a big challenge every season,” Hill said. “Effingham is going to be a very good team and there are other teams that will be improved.
“We still have a lot of confidence in our team. We’re going to go out there each night and expect to compete for wins.”
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.