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Former Newton coach Hendricks, 67, dies
Coach led Rams to 2001 region title
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Newton High School basketball has a rich tradition. From the school's state championship in 1964 to the three straight region championships from 1981-83 to its Final Four run of last year, the Rams have stood the test of time of generational gaps and the changing landscape of the county. The program's success can be attributed in large part to the men who have coached the teams.

One of those great coaches, Billy Hendricks, passed away Monday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Hendricks was 67.

Hendricks took over for Richard Porter in 1995 after several down years for the Rams and immediately reestablished Newton as a winning program. Hendricks won nearly 70 percent of his games as the Rams' floor general. In six years at Newton, Hendricks amassed a 113-46 record (.710) including three-straight 20-win seasons from 1999-2001.

The highlight of Hendricks' time at Newton came during the 2000-01 season when he led the Rams to the Region 8-AAAA championship. It was Newton's first region title since the 1983-84 season. Despite the Rams' regular-season and region tournament success that year, Newton was upset in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs. The Rams, who had risen to No. 1 in the state, were ranked No. 3 and finished with a 24-5 record.

"Coach (Billy) Hendricks was a loyal coach and teacher at Newton and at many other schools in GA for 30 years. He was a personal friend and fellow coach and he will be deeply missed," current Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said.

Hendricks retired in 2001 and moved to back to his native Commerce where he remained active in high school basketball as part of the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association. He was a frequent visitor to state playoff games despite being confined to a wheel chair in recent years. The GACA All-Star game MVP trophy is named in his honor. In a career spanning 30 years at seven schools, Hendricks compiled a 414-293 (.585) record.

Besides the region title in 2001, Hendricks legacy at Newton can be found in some of the players he coached. Former Iowa State star Kantrail Horton (NHS '96) and former Division 1 players Mike Benton (NHS '99) and Alex Adediron (NHS '01) played at Newton during Hendricks' tenure. Horton played in the NCAA Tournament in 2000 and 2001 and Benton left Newton as the all-time leader in blocks before landing at College of Charleston. Benton is still playing professional basketball in Europe.

Rasmussen, who was an assistant under Hendricks for three years and might have ended up with the job in 2002 before legendary Newton coach Ron Bradley returned to the sidelines, dedicated the 2006 season to his former mentor after learning of the severity of his disease. The Rams also paid tribute to Hendricks in December when they played in the Wingslinger Holiday Bash Christmas tournament at East Jackson. It was the last time Rasmussen saw Hendricks and each of his players introduced themselves and shook the former Newton floor general's hand.

"As a coach, Billy was mentally tough on his players but also would do anything for them," Rasmussen said. "His players were very loyal to him and appreciated his tough love because they knew he cared. He was a mentor to me and was very successful in his six years at Newton. We had some very successful seasons together and he will be missed."