The Statesboro Blue Devil boys' basketball team spent most of the 2020-21 season ranked in the top 10 of the state polls. The Blue Devils advanced to the region tournament riding an 11-game win streak, but lost to Richmond Hill in the region championship game and then were beaten 81-57 in the opening round of the state tournament.
Even though they struggled at the end of the season, the fact that the Blue Devils managed a 19-4 record was pretty impressive considering they had to deal with the deaths of teammate O.J. Reese and coach Lee Hill and were playing under first year head coach Keith LeGree.
The good news for the Blue Devils is that they return the majority of the team from the 2020-21 season and they have now had a full season to get to know coach LeGree and what he expects from them.
“I’m excited about this year and where we are at,” said LeGree. “We have had a whole year to get to know each other. I know the players better and they know what to expect from me and what I want our system to look like. We played a whole summer league together and we were able to get a little more complex with the offense and defense so we should look a little different this season.”
The Blue Devils roll out an impressive starting five that includes point guard Albert Mikell (5-10 senior) and guard Kam Mikell (6-3 sophomore) as well as forwards Willie Ballard (6-3 senior) and Tim Thomas (6-3 senior) along with center Leslie Black (6-5 senior).
LeGree is also excited about some of the Blue Devil newcomers who are getting a chance to play with a few of the starters still nursing injuries.
“I think what makes this group strong is our size,” said LeGree. “Not necessarily how tall we are but we are long and athletic and have a lot of 6-2 and 6-3 guys with long arms. We can switch on defense and play multiple ways with so many interchangeable positions. I have also been impressed by a few of our sophomores who played really well over the summer and give us a lot of depth this season.
One thing LeGree felt was lacking a bit last year was toughness. LeGree encouraged most of his basketball players to play football this year and with the exception of Albert Mikell the other four starters all played football this fall with two of them playing for the first time in their high school careers.
“I felt like it would improve toughness, but really I wanted them to play other sports to help all the sports here at Statesboro High,” said LeGree. “I was a multi-sport player and I think too many kids just get locked into one sport and it helps them and the whole athletic department to play more than one sport. As far as playing football I do feel it helped us have some guys who are now stronger and more physical and it really helped that they weren’t just sitting around in the fall to be honest.”
The Blue Devils only lost one region game last season, but LeGree feels many teams improved over the off season and is expecting some battles this year.
“Our region should be much improved and was already pretty tough,” said LeGree. “I feel like we came up a little short last season and once again our goal is to win the region title. A lot of these guys didn’t play at all the year before last and to do what they did last year was impressive, now it’s time to take that next step.”
The Blue Devils are 2-0 so far this season with wins over West Laurens and Jenkins County. Up next the Blue Devils host Swainsboro December 4 with the boys playing at approximately 7:30.