Some of the many things cancelled over the past year were summer league basketball camps. A few AAU teams played a condensed schedule, but for the most part high school gyms were pretty quiet in the summer of 2020.
This year plenty of coaches are making up for lost time and Monday the Statesboro girls basketball team hosted 12 teams from throughout the team for their inaugural Summer Heat tournament.
“There’s not a lot of things going on in South Georgia for girls' basketball,” said Statesboro coach Marty Holder. “Me and my coaches decided that there was a need and we decided to host an event this week. We have 12 teams, and each team will get three games to play. It’s exciting to have some of our local teams here as well as teams from the Atlanta area.”
The Blue Devils lost a couple key players from their region championship squad from this past year. Holder has some talented newcomers trying to fight for playing time and is hoping to gain some chemistry with a full summer schedule.
“I feel like we look really good right now,” said Holder. “We have some good senior leadership and a great core of young girls who have really put in a lot of work. We want to win a region title but this year we really want to be able to compete on a state level. Many of the top teams are in the Atlanta area and able to play against each other which kind of puts us at a disadvantage, but we are trying to get as much summer league experience against tough teams as we can.”
While there were some teams that drove a few hours to attend, for others it was a quick trip as Portal and Bulloch Academy both participated as well.
For the Gators it was a chance to see how they fared against some GHSA they would normally not see during the season.
“We already played a couple scrimmages, but this is a great opportunity to see where we stand against tough competition,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chandler Dennard. “We return basically intact from a year ago and actually have a couple new editions to the team as well. Kasie Ricketts is returning to BA as is Sarah Ellis is coming over as well. I think we look good, and this will give us a good idea of things we need to work on when we get started in October.”
The Portal Panthers have quite a few summer league games scheduled over the next month. Head coach Huey Williams feels the team took a step backwards missing the time together last summer and hopes they can build on what they are able to do this year.
“It is very important for us to play over the summer because we work on skills, we really don’t have time to do once the season starts,” said Williams. “Our younger girls are getting a chance to get their feet wet this summer because most of our returning players are either working or playing travel softball. We are focused more on implementing what the girls should know but we have mostly eighth and ninth graders so it’s a learning process for them.”
“We competed well with EBA and Jenkins County when our older girls were here but at the Statesboro tournament our older girls were out, so we mostly played rising eighth and ninth graders,” said Williams. “They got first-hand experience of how different the game is from middle school to the high school level. Hopefully we can build on this experience and be ready once the season comes around.”