The Newton boys’ basketball team averaged 48 points per game in 2012-13, 20 below Region 2-AAAAAA regular season champion Rockdale, and 11 below the region tournament champions, Druid Hills.
Since the season finale, a 43-38 loss to Morrow, the Rams graduated three seniors and have been hard at work during summer practices, camps and tournaments. Newton went 19-4 throughout the summer, but was able to get a lot of work in, and find strengths and weaknesses in advance for the upcoming season.
Along with displaying players with a strong work ethic and good chemistry, the summer has also shown coach Rick Rasmussen that the 2013-14 Rams will be able to score often and score quickly. Newton’s guard play is much improved, with each guard showing scoring prowess throughout the team’s three camps, North Georgia Hoops League, University of Georgia Team Camp and Georgia College and State Team Camp.
Jalen Glover has stepped up as Newton’s premier scorer, not only being able to shoot but also increasing his athleticism with dunks in transition, and his ability to get to the hoop.
“Jalen has been outstanding,” Newton coach Rick Rasmussen said. “He’s definetly better than he was last year. He’s more aggressive, using his athleticism more, on several dunks in transition and he’s way more aggressive to the basket.”
Against Class AAAAAA playoff-contender Lambert, Glover tallied 21 points to lead the way along with Darvin Jones.
Jones will be the only freshman in Newton’s rotation this upcoming season and displayed why throughout the summer, including his 21-point effort against Lambert.
Jones had two 21 point games, and is a pure scorer, who spent last season leading Veterans Middle School.
“He made some freshman mistakes from time to time, but he can flat out score,” Rasmussen said.
Jones even got a starting nod when upcoming senior Taylor Hawkins didn’t attend one of Newton’s camps.
The biggest improvement in Newton’s guard play, however, is the play of returning starter and upcoming junior D.J. Hill.
Hill showed flashes as a sophomore in 2012-13, but had trouble holding onto the ball turning it over at a ratio of roughly 1 assist to 1 turnover. Rasmussen said throughout the summer-league games, Hill reduced that turnover ratio to 3-1. Against Tift County Hill had 12 assists, while turning the ball over just one time.
“He’s much more conscious whether or not he’s going to turn the ball over,” Rasmussen said. “When he’s on he can make so much happen. When he wasn’t playing as well or turning the ball over, we weren’t as good. But most of the time he’s very good for us.”
While the guard play showed improvement, the Rams were missing the presence of graduated senior Rashard Cabane. Cabane was the Rams main low-post presence, not only offensively but defensively in 2012-13. He set the school record for charges in a season, game and career, an aspect which will be missed in 2013-14.
Filling in is returners Tarik Rogers, an upcoming junior and Brandon Lybrand, an upcoming senior. The two will rotate as center and power forward as Rasmussen tries to fill in the one spot he feels his team needs to be a state contender.
“We’re one big man away from being very good,” Rasmussen said.