Newton head basketball coach Rick Rasmussen and Heritage's Ron Bradley are a stark contrast yet similar many ways. After working together for four seasons, the mentor and protégé like to help each other out any chance they get. They brought their teams together Wednesday for a summer scrimmage and for an instant; you would have thought it was one big team.
"It's always fun for Coach [Bradley] and I when we get together and play," Rasmussen said. "So many things are similar that the players are kind of looking around, thinking, ‘man, are we doing the same stuff or what?'"
Both teams have been practicing throughout the summer and the scrimmage gave each coach an opportunity to see what their teams could do against outside competition.
"It was good to play this Newton crowd," Bradley said. "They're well-coached. They are a good basketball team and they'll do well this year so it was good for our kids to have a chance to work with them and hopefully our guys learned a lot from them."
In reality, Newton is further along in its preparation for the upcoming season. Rasmussen's team has been meeting twice a day since the beginning of June and he has a pretty good idea of what he has. The Rams used Wednesday's practice session as a tune-up for this weekend's varsity basketball camp at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, NC. before heading to Georgia College next Friday for a similar camp.
Returning Class 5A All-State shooting guard Derrick Henry looks as good as ever. He's taking the ball to the rim with explosiveness while playing under control and continues to work on his 3-point shot. Center Chuck Edwards has been solid all summer and is looking forward to a big summer after missing several games down the stretch last year. Perhaps the biggest surprise is point guard Brandon Carlton. Carlton knocked down several threes during the day and has shown the ability to get to the basket on his own.
For Heritage, it was a shooting fest all day. They knocked down ate least a dozen threes. Without a running score, the game was clearly competitive. Heritage scored from outside while Newton earned a lot of its points around the basket.
"They shot the ball extremely well and we were better at going to the basket and on the boards," Rasmussen said. "It was really two different teams."
Early on it looks like the Patriots will be a jump shooting team. Even their bigs play on the perimeter. That's just something Bradley said he'll adjust to.
"We shoot the ball we and I think we'll be fundamentally sound. The biggest thing is we have to get stronger inside," Bradley said. "We're not as strong or as big as I'd like to be but we work hard."
Rasmussen coached under Bradley for four years before taking over as head coach in 2005. And while he values everything he learned from Georgia's all-time winningest high school coach, he's evolved since then. A lot of what the two teams run is the same but even more, Rasmussen has added his own elements that make his team unique from what Bradley does.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Rasmussen and the job he's done," Bradley said. "He was a joy to work with for four years. He's a real student of the game and I tell you what, he does a great job. I hope the people appreciate it because he works hard - he really does."
Fundamentally speaking though, some things never change. Both guys preach the basics and score or not, each wants to win. But more importantly, they both are happy to help each other get better.
"That was good for our kids before we go to camp - to get a chance to go against somebody else," Rasmussen said. "Our varsity guys haven't played against anybody else so those guys [Patriots] gave us some good competition so it's good."