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NHS basketball in full swing
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Memorial Day traditionally signals the beginning of summer and vacation time. It was the first day after school let out this year, and should have been a good day to sleep in and relax.

That is, unless you are a prospective member of the 2007-08 Newton Ram basketball program.

At 8 a.m. sharp, Newton head coach Rick Rasmussen greeted some 45 hoop-hopefuls. This group included seven returning varsity members from the 20-win season the Rams enjoyed last year. The returning seniors are Sean Monk, Montrell Grimes, Ruben Hatchett and Omar Crawley; rising juniors are Jamon Hawkins and Taurius Farley and last - but not least - rising sophomore Tevin Bradley.

As the summer continues, the group will be whittled down to approximately 30 players, forming a summer varsity team and a junior varsity team. The varsity team will finish the summer workouts by attending camp at Georgia College and State University, where they will play at least 10 games from June 20-22.

Last year's version of the summer Rams won the camp championship by sporting a perfect 11-0 mark. The junior varsity group will play four or five games against local teams.

The summer sessions are split into a morning workout and an afternoon workout, with lunch provided for the players between sessions. The big stress early on has been fundamentals, conditioning and team concepts.

"Confidence comes from doing things over and over properly," said Rasmussen. "That is why we are working so hard on fundamentals."

At the beginning of each session, Rasmussen gives the players a "thought for the day." They are expected to remember it for the duration of the day and repeat it back when asked to do it. Failure to do so normally results in additional running before taking breaks. The first "thought for the day" was one that Rasmussen wants the players to keep close to heart all year: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always be what you've always been."

Although it is a lot of work and sweat, there are some fun moments too.

On Friday, the team held a 3-point shooting contest along with a slam dunk contest. During the 3-point contest, Hatchett drained 12-of-15 shots from beyond the arc to outlast Bradley, who managed 7-of-15 in the final. But it was newcomer Demetrius McCray who garnered the honors in the slam dunk contest, narrowly defeating Grimes, with Hawkins taking third place.

McCray recently moved from South Carolina and figures to make an immediate impact for the Rams. Sophomore Charles Edwards should also see some playing time this year as he moves up from the junior varsity squad. Incoming freshman Derrick Henry has "a good future with a lot of potential," according to Rasmussen.

Rasmussen has been pleased with things so far.

"It has been an excellent turnout with over 50 kids attending," said Rasmussen. "We put a lot of work into a short period of time. We only go four weeks because it is important the kids get a break and enjoy some of their summer."

Of course, that doesn't leave a whole lot of time, as the first day of school will be July 27 with fall basketball workouts starting in October. But stay tuned for good things to come within the NHS basketball organization.