SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. — Sending onto the court most nights a starting lineup comprised entirely of underclassmen, first-year Social Circle boys basketball coach Taylor Jackson wasn’t sure what to expect last winter.
Certainly, he didn’t expect a drought-busting campaign that positioned his program for a breakout season this year.
“I was nervous going in,” Jackson said. “We had lost three really tough seniors, but I knew we had a good sophomore class.”
Having spent the previous two season as an assistant with the team, the transition to a new coach was, as Jackson said “about as ideal of a situation as possible.”
And the year turned out beyond his wildest expectations. The Redskins won 21 games, played for a region title, and made the state playoffs for the first time in eight years.
“We checked a lot of boxes and got a lot of ‘firsts’ out of the way,” Jackson said. “Now we want to raise the expectations at Social Circle. We want to be winning region championships and going deep into the state tournament.”
Such goals don’t seem so outlandish this season. After all, the Redskins return their entire starting lineup plus a few talented additions.
The backcourt might be the strength of the team. Back are a pair of first-team, all-region guards who combined to average 27 points a game.
Leading to offense will be junior point guard Tyrhell Branch, who averaged 15 points and was named pre-season all-state Class A. Joining him in the backcourt is junior shooting guard K.J. Reid, who scored 12 a game.
Returning at the forwards are juniors in Amarion Russell and Trey Douglas.
Douglas, who’ll open at power forward, is a big inside presence who is a reliable rebounder who can also step out and hit an occasional three pointer. Russell, who’s the football team’s leading rusher, might be the best athlete on the team, according to Jackson.
The youngest starter will be A.J. Vincent at the post. The 6-foot-5 sophomore led the team in rebounding last year with seven a game. Jackson says he capable of averaging a double-double.
Despite the return of every starter, the Redskins could get off to a slow start since most of the team’s roster also play football. On the bright side, region play won’t begin until January, giving them time to assemble everyone and get up to speed.
If all goes well, Social Circle could check off a very big box this season: a region title for the first time since 1982.
The Redskins opened their season Tuesday, Dec. 1, on the road against Apalachee.