At Newton, under head coach Rick Rasmussen, the boys’ basketball team has notoriously ran a slow-paced pass heavy offense to minimize the opposing team’s ability to exploit the Rams’ lack of athleticism in transition. That ends this summer.
Newton has an influx of new talent that will allow the team to play a fast-paced game on offense and, to a degree, on defense. The Rams will be deeper than they were last year with six players returning, a few call-ups from JV and possibly two or three freshmen on varsity, which makes for a nice blend of youth and experience.
With the talent at his disposal, Rasmussen felt it would be in the team’s best interest to switch it up a little and play at a faster pace.
“We’ll be very good offensively in transition and so it’s gonna be a real challenge for the opponent to get back on us, but we have to figure out are we gonna also be able to get back. Are we gonna play good half-court defense? Our half-court defense is usually very good. We’ve got some new guys in key spots including a brand new starting point guard when you had three years of D.J [Hill]. That’s gonna be interesting to see, I’m wondering where we are defensively,” Rasmussen said.
“I just think we’ll get shots more easily, we won’t have to run as many plays because we’ll already be open,” Rasmussen added. “You run plays so you can get open and take good shots, but I think because we got shooters in transition we’re gonna get some easy shots.”
Rasmussen realizes that his returning players are a year better and he believes players that are stepping up from JV like Deandre Butler or coming in from middle school like Ashton Hagans, are ready to help the team win games.
The Rams are currently working on building chemistry with each other and their upcoming slate of 30 games over the next two weeks will give Newton the opportunity to play against some real competition and work out any kinks before the regular season begins in the Fall.
Rasmussen’s biggest concern before the games begin is defense.
“When you do push it you’re more vulnerable to giving up layups yourself. If you push and shoot a bad shot then the other team’s gonna get an easy one,” Rasmussen said. :So that’s gonna be the question will we be as good defensively. If we push it more it’s more possessions in the game, that’s more points for the other team too. If you play slower they don’t score as much, if we play faster the other team can score more.”
With the abundance of speed on this young Rams team, Rasmussen realizes they can run more sets on defense and possibly be more effective.
“I think that we can mix up our defenses more,” Rasmussen said. “We can trap more because we’re quick so we’ve got three different presses we have, so we’ll mix those up depending on who we’re playing and how tired we are.”
With Newton’s first couple of games coming Monday against a couple of powerhouses the Rams managed to beat last year in Dacula (who the Rams knocked off as a No. 4 seed in the second round of the playoffs) and Apalachee, Rasmussen is yet to designate a starting lineup.
Rasmussen has an almost concrete four starters in JaNaud “J.D” Notae, Jaquan Simms, Ashton Hagans and Josh Tukes. The fifth starter is where it gets tricky. Rasmussen says his lineups will depend on who the team is playing and what the starters need. If it’s offense, Rasmussen says he could go with Darvin Jones, if it’s defense he says he could go with Marvin Boireau, who will start against Apalachee on Monday. There are a couple of other players in the mix to start such as Butler, in case they need a big or one of the Rams’ young freshmen talents not named Ashton Hagans.
The Rams will visit multiple camps in the coming couple of weeks with plenty of tough teams such as Duluth, Tift, Milton and Rockdale on the menu.
Still, Rasmussen is excited about the future and the road to success that begins this summer.
“I just feel like we’re really quick, especially at the guard position,” Rasmussen said. “We’ve got a lot of talent. Talent that’s ready to blossom right now and talent that we’re gonna be maturing and working through probably a lot of college prospects. I’m really excited, I think it’s an exciting time for Newton basketball.”