GUYTON — Since 2000, Jason Napier has been a fixture in the Effingham County school system, coaching at the middle and high school levels. And now Napier has returned to a head coaching role, this time at the helm of the South Effingham boys basketball team.
Much of Napier’s love for basketball started when he was a high school student at Southwest Macon, a team that is known for producing high-caliber players. Coming from a school that put middle Georgia on the hoops map is one of Napier’s fondest memories.
“I grew up around the game,” Napier said. “I love the game and I tell people all the time our PE pick-up games at Southwest were more competitive than most varsity high school games. We won the state championship two out of my four years of high school.
“My senior year, we had about seven guys sign Division I scholarships and three of those guys played in the NBA.”
Although he never played for the Patriots, he certainly has an eye for the game, having spent 13 seasons as the head coach of the Effingham County Middle School team. Now he’s ready to take the reins and make his mark yet again, this time at the high school level.
“Once my son got to the high school, an opportunity came up at Effingham County High School to get back to the high school coaching both football and basketball, but basketball as an assistant with Coach (Jake) Darling,” Napier said. “I took that opportunity and I had always wanted to get back to the high school. And that was really nice and I really learned a lot from Coach Darling. I wanted to get back to being a head coach and put my stamp on a program. I was really successful at the middle school and I really enjoyed molding kids and doing things from a head coaching perspective.
“When this opportunity came up, I kind of jumped at the opportunity and the rest is history. That’s what drew me to it. I am familiar with this area and I am familiar with the region (2-AAAAAA) we are in.
Napier is a student of the game and utilizes tools from some of the biggest basketball greats.
“I spent 20 years really learning the game,” Napier said. “I go to coaching clinics and I pay attention to elite college coaches like Coach (Mike) Krzyzewski at Duke or Roy Williams at North Carolina. I spent time listening to what winning basketball programs do.”
As far as his coaching philosophy goes, Napier wants his team to be well rounded on both sides of the ball, but wants the Mustangs to be solid on defense first.
“Defensively, we are going to be tough man-to-man, in your face, playing help side defense,” Napier said. “It’s not just about athleticism. You have to understand how to play man-to-man. It’s not just having a bunch of athletes. We are going to be defensive-minded first.
“Offensively, we are going to push the ball and score in transition as much as possible. If not, we are going to get our ball skills to a point where we can be great decision makers and be very efficient offensively to get the high percentage shot. We don’t want to do anything like shoot contested shots, which drops your percentage down.
“For us, I guess our philosophy to sum it up is pressure defense and being real efficient and intelligent in our offense.”
Napier knows the Mustangs have some talent. He also noticed their willingness to compete.
“For 20 years, I’ve been on the other bench and I’ve coached against South Effingham,” Napier said. “Many of those years, they had more talent. For whatever reason, we were able to pull away. Even this past year and the past two years, they’ve had good size and they’ve had some pretty good athletes. They have talent.
“There is potential to really grow and that was another factor that led me to want to be part of it.”