Newton boys' basketball team put together a pretty impressive 2012 season, compiling a 19-7 record and entering the region tournament ranked No. 10 in Class AAAAA.
However, the second-seeded Rams were upset by Stephenson and their season came to a premature ending on Feb. 15.
A little shy of four months later, the Rams are back to work; this time preparing for a summer schedule that has them working just as hard as the regular season. Newton is at work trying to mature and gain newfound chemistry after losing four seniors, including Furman signee Stephen Croone and 6-foot-5 Georgia Perimeter signee Shane Henry. Newton coach Rick Rasmussen has brought together 14 players to work out in summer camps and compete in various leagues throughout the state.
The Rams have been together for three weeks and will compete in their first games of the summer starting June 18 with scrimmages against Walnut Grove, Apalachee and Monroe Area.
The summer schedule started for Newton May 28 with a Fundamentals Camp, and ended June 1. Team practices began on June 4, stretching throughout this coming week.
Rasmussen has liked what he has seen so far in the early practices, and is eager to match the Rams against other teams this summer.
"Once you start playing, you can see who is really better in a game when the lights are on," Rasmussen said.
The same holds true for seeing who will step up and fill in Newton's three open starting positions.
"I'll have a better idea," Rasmussen said. "I feel good about our depth but there's no one, saving maybe two returning starters, who are our best players right now, but the rest is wide open."
The Rams may not have two instant stars but they are working with a lot of depth, going two or three deep at every position. Thanks to the six weeks of summer ball, along with a majority of seniors and juniors on the upcoming 2013 team, Newton will also have plenty of experience.
"I don't know if we have as spectacular players as (Croone and Henry), but at the same time I think we have a good unit that's hard working. They're building chemistry and seem hungry to want to get better.
"The group is really hard working. They have good attitudes and we don't have anybody who's worried about me. The work ethic and toughness has been great."
That toughness needs to be there with several players fighting for positions. Rasmussen said there are two or three competing at point guard, five or six forwards and three different players the Rams could use at center. That group, featuring seven varsity returners, will combine with returning junior starter Jalen Glover and returning starter senior Rashard Cabane.
"I'm excited about the newness of it," Rasmussen said. "Our junior class is very strong, and I feel like Jalen Glover will have a chance to be really explosive."
He'll have plenty of opportunities to hone his skills throughout the rest of the month starting with the scrimmages in two weeks. Following that, Newton will travel to a camp at the University of Georgia on June 23. Days later, the Rams will compete in a three-day camp at Georgia College and State.
"I'm excited to see who's going to step up when we start playing games," Rasmussen said.