Coaching basketball isn't foreign to first-year Alcovy girls varsity basketball coach David Baker.
Baker, who has been coaching basketball for over 12 years, spent his first two head-coaching seasons at an Atlanta International School.
While the Eagles may not have taken basketball seriously then, Baker is ready for a program that values its players now.
"I started coaching at the high school level in 2000 at International in Atlanta," Baker said. "The funding wasn't there for the program. It wasn't a priority. I'm ready for it to be a priority now."
Since then, Baker has spent time coaching his children at the recreation level, waiting for an opportunity to arise.
Baker joined the Lady Tigers' program this summer, and, so far, the transition has been smooth.
"The girls have been great during the transition," Baker said. "Coach (Kidada Holtzclaw) left a good foundation of players. These girls have great basketball sense and a great knowledge of the game. Mentally, they are very tough."
The foundation Holtzclaw left Baker will be without senior guard Meagan Tucker and Lakeiyah Sorrells, who helped lead Alcovy to a perfect 12-0 record in the region last season. But, Baker said, the cupboard isn't bare from the championship team a season ago.
"I’m fortunate enough to have three seniors and four returners, overall," Baker said. "Seniors Waneisha Morris and Daja Barnes, along with juniors Kiara Bagby and Ayanna Wimbush, have really stepped up their roles this offseason. They're going to be our leaders. They're ready to compete at a high level."
Baker said the biggest hurdle to the rejuvenation of his high school coaching career has been time.
"The biggest hurdle has just been my limited time with the girls," Baker said. "I came to Alcovy in June and we didn’t get started until August. It’s still a mesh of what Coach K instilled in them and my new system. The terminology is different, but overall, everything is very similar.
"(The players) have been very receptive of the new coaching staff and have shown trust in us," he said. "They are dedicated to getting better every single day."
Baker said that his offense will feature his post players, but also gives his shooters a chance to shine.
"We’re going to spread the floor and look to go inside first," he said. "We have a great inside presence and we have even better outside shooting. I hope a lot of our points come in transition because we have a lot of athletic girls who have been working hard since August."
On defense, Baker wants to run a pressure-based man-to-man defense.
"We’re going to run a lot of man-to-man," Baker said. "We’ve been working on their stances and teaching them how to play an aggressive man-to-man style with a little zone thrown in."
For the Lady Tigers to repeat in the region, Alcovy will have to topple a familiar foe just down the road, an opponent that Baker anticipates will prove formidable.
"I know for a fact Newton is going to be tough," Baker said. "They’re going to pose a threat. Rockdale will also be tough in the region."
No matter the challenge, Baker recognizes the importance of winning back-to-back region titles.
"My expectations for this season are for these girls to lead by example and to simply win," he said. "I need them to get at it and win the region. Our focus is on winning the region. That’s a must. Everything else will come."
The Lady Tigers begin their season Tuesday night on the road at Newton in region play.