Heritage boys varsity basketball coach Ralph Denmark is no stranger to Rockdale County, but this season, he will find a new spot on the bench with the Patriots.
Denmark, who spent five seasons as an assistant coach with the Bulldogs, joined the Patriots’ staff after the resigning of former head coach Drew Williams.
The first-year Heritage head coach said the transition, so far, has gone smoothly.
“The transition has been great so far,” Denmark said. “They have treated me really well here at Heritage. The kids have picked up on the system that I have put in. We had some great kids over at Rockdale County, but I’m happy to be here and working with my players at Heritage.”
Denmark takes over a program that went 9-17 last season. The Patriots won nine games before the start of the new year, but lost 12 consecutive games to close the season.
“They started off really well last year, but had a bad skid later in the half of the season,” Denmark said. “One of the keys we’ve talked about this season is learning how to close out a season.”
The Patriots will have a lot to learn in their first season under Denmark, as he brings in a new style of play.
“We want to set up a lot of screen and rolls and get our offense moving towards the basket,” Denmark said. “I want to get our shooters open for jump shots. Defensively, we use a lot of pressure defenses to help pick up the tempo. I want to make other teams’ offenses play much faster than they are used to and force them to make mistakes.”
Denmark said while transitioning from an old coach to a new coach could be a weakness, but his players’ passion has been an unexpected highlight to the Patriots’ offseason.
“So far, they have shown that they do have a passion to play defense,” he said. “We still have a lot to learn about the execution of our offense and defense, but so far, they are willing to give their best effort. It’s just getting them adjusted to a new style of play.”
While the Patriots do not return much in experience this season, Denmark said that some key players have stepped up in the first few weeks of practice.
“We have a small group of seniors this season, but they have been working really hard,” Denmark said. “Terrell Rainey and Trevor Campbell are going to be our two captains this season, and they’ve really stepped up and taken a leadership role. We’re going to have three or four freshmen playing varsity this season, so hopefully those guys can help our younger players pick up their roles quickly. We’re looking to gain a lot of experience in a short amount of time.”
After missing out on the postseason last year, Denmark said that the region could be up for grabs this season.
“There has been a lot of change in our region this year, and I’m not sure who is going to step up and make a run,” he said. “A lot of teams are learning new styles. I know that we’re going to have great games this season against our rivals Salem; they’re really well coached and are going to be strong. They’re going to give us a good battle this year.”
For Denmark, anything less than finishing in the top four of the region will mean the Patriots didn’t reach their potential.
“We have just one goal,” Denmark said. “That goal is to make the state tournament. It’s something that hasn’t happened around here in a few years, and I want to get that accomplished.”
The Patriots begin play Friday night on the road at Woodland.