COVINGTON, Ga. –– Newton High School’s boys basketball program hosted its five day camp this past week that provided a jump-start to a summer offseason full of improvement and progress.
“This week we just finished up was great,” said Newton basketball coach Rick Rasmussen. “It was open to anybody that plans on coming to Newton, who is zoned for Newton. We had a great turnout. We worked on fundamentals all week.”
Sixty students came out to the basketball camp. And while the camp is initially meant for high schoolers, there were 10 middle school students in attendance that were excited to be there.
It’s all a part of Rasmussen’s process of finding emerging stars for his Rams squad.
“We lost all five starters, but we’re really excited about these guys that were reserves getting to play a lot this year. They are really excited. They’ve got great attitudes. We’re really looking forward to working with these guys. We’ve got a good group coming back, they just weren’t starters. But a lot of them have significant minutes.”
Of Newton’s 2016-17 starting five that carried the Rams to an Elite Eight appearance in the Class AAAAAAA state tournament, and several national rankings through most of the season, four were seniors who will move on to play college ball next year, and the lone underclassmen — sophomore Ashton Hagans — will transfer to national power Oak Hill Academy.
But on Friday, the focus was on current and future Rams. Rasmussen and company wrapped up their camp week with a slam dunk and three-point shooting contest.
Junior Armani Harris won the dunk contest while fellow junior Colby Rogers won the three-point contest.
“It’s a new opportunity being a leader and all,” Harris said. “Especially with last year’s team and coming off the bench. I’m doing good. I could become a starter and lead the team with my fellow teammates. It’s going to feel good playing with those guys. It’s a new role for me but I think we’re going to fit in well, our team is going to gel together.”
“It was really exciting to see them all while working on their fundamentals,” said Rasmussen. “I saw a lot of improvement this week.”
With the conclusion of the camp, the Rams now look to their summer season. The varsity team is composed of: Harris, Rogers, Tyrease Brown, Tyler Glover, Erick Broadnax, Tre Clark, Juwuan Johnson, Jamal Pollard, Christian Davis and DeAndrae Butler.
Butler, a senior, has been cleared to play after being out most of last year with a broken leg.
“We’re very excited to have him back,” said Rasmussen.
Butler along with Rogers, Harris, Brown, Glover and Broadnax are returning varsity players.
Both the varsity and JV teams will start summer practice next week. They will then travel to Georgia College on June 12th for a basketball camp and campus visit. Next will be trips to compete at Clayton State, Georgia and Mercer University. Newton will also be participating in local scrimmages against local schools as well, playing 25 to 30 games through June 24th.
“They’ll get really tested,” said Rasmussen. “Those guys that needed more playing time or were reserves last year on the varsity team will get a lot of playing time. They’ll be able to build some roles. It’ll give us an idea of what we’ll have next fall.”
The Rams’ basketball coaching staff will be evaluating other athletes leading up to their late October tryouts for the upcoming fall season.
“I think we’ll be a good basketball team,” said Rasmussen. “The question is how good. We’ll let the fans determine that. Our job is to maximize the potential of what we have. This is a different group than last year’s team but I’m excited for them to step up and to be the next stars, be the next college prospects and be the next crowd pleasers. They’ve worked hard.”