John Page’s tenure as head coach at Southeast Bulloch outdates Prozac, The Simpsons and the release of “Lethal Weapon” — but through that time he’s never been dishonest with his players.
It’s an unfortunate situation SEB is in during basketball season. In the fall, SEB’s sports teams benefit from being in Region 3-AAA. Islands, Beach, Windsor Forest, Johnson, Jenkins and Savannah don’t normally pose a threat to the Yellow Jackets in football or softball.
As evidenced by the football team’s 5-2 region record and the softball team’s 14-0 mark — the region makes for an easy path to the playoffs and has even been used as a criticism against the team’s strength of scheduling.
But come the end ofdaylight savings time and when the sports move indoors, that narrative flips in a dramatic way.
Two of the past four state champions have come out of the Savannah area, specifically Johnson in 2013 and Jenkins in 2015. To add, at least one team from Savannah has been in the AAA final four the past four seasons.
Knowing all this, it’s not a radical claim when you call region 3-3A one of the best basketball regions in all of Georgia. And SEB’s stuck right in the middle of it.
Page knows what his guys are up against night in and night out during the season, especially once region play starts. But that doesn’t mean the Yellow Jackets can’t make a run at the playoffs — after all all they need to do is place fourth in a region of eight.
“I’m not going to be unrealistic and tell these guys we’re going down to win the region,” Page said. “We can be one of the four teams to get out. But that fourth spot is going to be a tough task.”
It’s a task easier said than done, especially with leading scorer, ball-handler and playmaker Markel Ming lost to graduation. Ming, along with Brandon Tremble and Joseph Anderson made up for 42.7 percent of SEB’s total scoring production from last season’s 15-14 campaign.
But even with those three key cogs gone, Page is confident he has the horses to replace the loss in offense.
“We’ll miss Markel from a leadership standpoint,” Page said. “But his scoring was off in the second half of the season.”
The goal this season will be to put two good halves together, and that’s not talking about games. SEB was 8-4 and had a point differential of +189 in the first half of the 2015-16 season, including a 3-0 run at the U-Save Albany tournament. But the second half of the year brought different struggles.
“I didn’t think we played together in the second half of the season,” Page said. “We played a little selfish.”
SEB finished the year 7-10 with a point differential of -308, which also coincided with region play. Page wants to make a point that a second half collapse will not happen again.
“If this group plays together, I think they can best anybody,” Page said. “We have good ball handlers and some guys who can shoot from distance.”
Pierless Brown, Ardraveon Harrison and Cameron Wilson, will look to fill in as the starting backcourt for SEB. Harrison comes back as the most experienced of the three, getting decent minutes last season, but Page believes he has outside scoring potential with all three of these guards.
Don’t forget about Aaron Houston and De’sean Taylor either, as Houston is leading returning scorer at 10.8 points per game. Taylor also brings mack valuable minutes from 2015-16 as well.
In the middle SEB returns a valuable piece in Caleb Carter, who’ll transition from the commanding football plays under center to commanding the paint under the basket. Carter led SEB in rebounds last season with 7.4 and could see more touches in the post per a offensive transition by Page.
“Caleb is definitely a force, and we didn’t get the ball to our post players enough last season,” Page said. “If we had the balance of outside-inside offense last season we could have been a lot better.”
33.3 percent of SEB’s shots last season were three’s -- which is fine unless you only make 25 percent of them like SEB did. Page wants to bring that down this season in hopes to run a continuity offense that emphasizes higher percentage shots.
“We all already have continuity with each other from travel ball,” Wilson said. “It’s going to help us with chemistry this season.”
SEB will start play this afternoon against Tattnall County in the Effingham Classic at 5:30. They’ll continue play at the Classic against Long County at 4:30 tomorrow before starting regular weekly play at Jenkins on Tuesday at 7:30.