In order to be the best, you have to beat the best. And that is what the Newton basketball team hopes to do this summer.
Newton made it to the Final Four in the GHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament at the end of the 2015-2016 season, but the Rams are determined to bring home a state championship next year.
During next season, the Rams will face some of best top-ranked teams in the state this upcoming year, such as Shiloh, Grayson and Henry County. To prepare the team for that task, head coach Rick Rasmussen is taking Newton on a basketball camp tour at several colleges across in the country.
“It’ll be a good camp for them to get exposure,” he said. “We’d like for them to play at colleges to get ready for college; to see it, to picture, to want to be there themselves, and to have goals for that level.”
Starting June 15, the Rams will face some of the best teams in the nation at schools like Mercer, Georgia, Auburn and Georgia Tech. The teams will play 25 games in 10 days, starting with Clayton State on Wednesday and ending with an overnight trip in Auburn on June 25.
“We’ve told the colleges hosting the camps to please give us the very best teams that are there,” said Rasmussen. “We want to play the best. We don’t want to play a cupcake and win by 30, so I’m hoping we play some really good teams.
To prepare for the two to three games per day they are expected to play, Rasmussen’s team has practiced for three straight weeks, with their last practice ending Tuesday.
“They’re really excited,” he said. “We’ve been beating up on each other for three weeks, and now we get to go beat up on somebody else. They’re excited and they’re serious about it. They know what the goals are.”
According to Rasmussen, the team went 30-2 in the basketball camps last summer, followed by a 26-5 record in the regular season.
Out of 13 players from last season, 11 are returning this year, making this one of Rasmussen’s most experienced teams.
“I doubt we’re going to lose very many games because of the returners we have coming back” senior center Josh Tukes said. “We’re going to look good for the summer and for the regular season as well.”
Tukes, who was named player of the game four times last season, did not hesitate when giving his prediction for next season.
“State championship,” he said. “I expect nothing less.”
Sophomore Ashton Hagans, starting point guard who currently has eight athletic scholarship offers, echoed Tukes’ sentiments, saying he expects the team go win state and “go undefeated.’
Following the trip to Clayton State on Wednesday, the Rams will travel play at Mercer on June 17 and Georgia Tech on June 18, followed by Georgia on June 19. From June 20-23, there will be games in Monroe, Apalachee and Winder, with the camps concluding at Auburn June 24-25.