The Newton Rams will begin the 2019-2020 season with a new head coach for the first time in 14 seasons, with Charlemagne Gibbons taking over the helm.
Gibbons looks to build on the success the program had under Rick Rasmussen's tutelage while implementing some of his own beliefs in ideas to get to the Rams to the next level.
"We're doing study hall on a regular basis every day. We're much bigger into the weights, making sure these guys are lifting like they're supposed to be lifting; that's going to be a big change," said Gibbons. "Also, just the style of we're going to try a little faster and have a little more open offense."
Gibbons made it known that he wants his guys to play fast, and that will be the game plan moving forward this season. Part of the reason for that style of attack is the makeup of the team, which is filled with talent that fits the mold of a successful, fast-paced offense.
"We've got a lot of dribble, pass, shoot guys that can put points on the board, so we're going to try to do that to the best of our ability," said Gibbons. "So, we're going to try to push the ball down the court and keep the offense open."
This type of offense bodes well for offensive juggernauts like Shawn Smith and Caleb Byrd and should lead to plenty of points between this pair of star senior guards.
Gibbons has big expectations for this pair and knows how lethal they can be for the Rams this season, but he hopes to get multiple people involved in the Rams scoring attack.
"With Shawn and Caleb, you have senior leadership and guys who have experience, which is great," said Gibbons. "My thing is let's share the basketball, let's move the basketball, and let's get everybody involved."
Smith and Byrd both have big expectations for their senior seasons and know they have work to do to accomplish all of their team and individual goals.
"I think we can do really great, go really deep in the state playoffs and just make a lot of noise. We're going to be a fast-paced team that's going to be running up and down the floor," said Byrd. "We just need to lock in and be more efficient and focus."
"We're going to be pretty small, so we're definitely going to have to pick up the pace and get out and run against bigger teams," said Smith. "We just need to completely stay focused."
Byrd said that after playing two months with Smith, they have an understanding of each other's game by now, so they are at a point where they can feed off of each other's play. Smith knows when he and Caleb are on the court, teams will have tough decisions to make.
"I feel like if teams want to double team or trap, you kind of have to pick your poison. It's either one or the other, we both get buckets," said Smith.
Replacing talents like Tyrease Brown and Tre Clark is a tall task, but Smith and Byrd seem to be the answer at those spots. However, replacing the loss of 6-foot-7 Armani Harris to graduation is still a work in progress, and the Rams are looking to see who steps up at that position.
"We're still looking. We work on that every day. If we can find one or two guys, then I think we'll be okay," said Gibbons. "Shyear Mozoune is a guy that we're trying out there, Doug Moore is a guy that we're trying out there so we'll combine the best we can as we go through these guys. The one thing I know is we have to find someone that can hold their own, so whoever that guy is, we'll find him and roll with him."
Who steps up in this role will be worth watching as the season progresses. When Gibbons was asked who might be a guy that could surprise the viewing public this year, he immediately went with junior Jordan Marshall for a number of reasons.
"I think Jordan is going to do some things that people haven't seen yet," said Gibbons. "He's a really good player that can do a lot of different things. He can defend, he can rebound, handles the ball well, so we're trying to bring that out of him on a consistent basis, and I think he can be another one of those guys that steps up."
With such a plethora of talent, Gibbons has high hopes for his team in his first year but knows that certain areas of the team will have to pick up the slack to get where they need to be.
"The goal is always the same goal. We want to be the last team standing at the end of the year. If you don't start with that mentality, then you cannot finish with that mentality," said Gibbons. "We have to communicate better, and we have to be a great rebounding team from our perimeter because we're not big."
Gibbons will finally get to put his team in live competitive action on Saturday, November 9th, as they go on the road to face the Morgan County Bulldogs, who defeated the Rams by five last season.