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'It has been a great ride': Charlemagne Gibbons’ impact as Newton’s head basketball coach
Gibbons impact
Jakai Newton (0) dunks over Charlemagne Gibbons during the Rams' dunk contest on Nov. 4, 2021. - photo by Phillip B. Hubbard

COVINGTON, Ga. — Early Tuesday morning, news broke of Charlemagne Gibbons’ resignation as Newton Rams’ head basketball coach. Gibbons will take the helm of the Gainesville Red Elephants’ boys basketball program beginning in the 2023-24 season. 

Coaching at Newton was one of many stops along Gibbons’ journey, which includes stints at Starrs Mill, Florida Atlantic University and, most notably, Morgan County High School where he became a state championship winning coach. 

But one thing made Newton unique from Gibbons’ perspective. 

“Newton has natural talent,” Gibbons said. “There have been some outstanding players who have been here over the years, plus the homegrown guys we’ve had has been great. The depth of talent you have here at Newton is just better.”

Newton’s program has accomplished a lot on Gibbons’ watch the past four years. 

First, he compiled a 76-36 record overall and went 8-4 in the postseason. Gibbons was also awarded the 2022 Region 4-AAAAAAA Coach of the Year. He led the Rams to appearances in the Sweet Sixteen and Final Four plus two Elite Eight appearances, one of which was this past season. 

A part of that “natural talent” has been players like 5-star, McDonald’s All-American Stephon Castle, 4-star Indiana signee Jakai Newton as well as Overtime Elite star TJ Clark, who was a 3-star player before entering the OTE League. 

Gibbons labeled the opportunity of coaching such talent as a “great experience.” 

“It has been an absolute joy as a coach to be able to have that level of talent in our program,” Gibbons said. “It has been a great ride for me.” 

Another aspect of the Rams’ program that has changed has been the level of competition. 

Over the course of the past four seasons, Newton has played a national schedule competing against some of the top ranked high school programs in the country. 

Just this past season, Newton traveled to face then-No. 1 Duncanville High School in Texas and then against IMG Academy in the HoopHall Classic played in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Rams also won the City of Palms Tournament in Fort Myers, Florida after beating teams like Charlotte and Tampa Catholic — both based in Florida. 

That’s not to mention last season when the Rams claimed the 2022 Sugar Bowl National Prep Classic tournament championship in Westwego, Louisiana. 

Doing so, Gibbons believes has placed Newton on the map. 

“I think over the four-year period, I would say we’ve been one of the top programs in the state, and I think we’ve gained more national recognition from the way these guys have played when we have traveled,” Gibbons said. “I’m very proud of the fact that what these guys have been able to do for the name of Newton basketball on a national level.” 

Newton took on this caliber of a schedule while also going up against the Grayson’s, Archer’s and Parkview’s of Region 4-AAAAAAA. 

By constantly seeking to play the high school game at its highest levels, Gibbons is hopeful for the future of Rams basketball.

“You may not have the star power of the Castle’s, Newton’s and the TJ Clark’s, but I think they’re going to have a really good team for the next couple of years here that is still going to compete at a state and national level and continue to be the team to find that elusive championship,” Gibbons said. 

Nevertheless, there is one aspect of the program that Gibbons often shared as one of the reasons he came to Newton in the first place: The fans. 

And, now that he is departing from the Rams and going to Gainesville, Gibbons shared how he’s going to miss the support from the Rams’ fans the most at his next stop. 

“The crowd, whether it’s a Tuesday night, Friday night or Saturday night, packs the gym and makes it a really tough place to play and makes it a really fun place to play,” Gibbons said. “One of the things that I’m going to miss is having that packed crowd every night that you walk out here at 1 Ram Way. This has got to be the best fanbase in the state.”