By Donald Heath
Special for the Effingham Herald
- GUYTON — South Effingham had a few coaching vacancies arise during the spring. Rico Campbell took care of them.
The Statesboro native was hired recently as the head coach for boys basketball and track and field, and will work as an assistant on the football staff.
“It’s a versatile role (coaching three sports) and something new so I’m excited,” said Campbell at a Mustangs spring football practice. “I wanted to get back to a school system with fewer schools so this all just worked out.”
Campbell, 45, had been in the Chatham County school system recently. He was the head coach of the New Hampstead’s girls basketball team last season after coaching track and assisting in boys basketball at Johnson High for six years.
In his one season as the Atom Smashers boys basketball head coach (2018-19), Campbell was named the Region 3-3A Coach of the Year.
He was a basketball assistant at his alma mater Statesboro under Blue Devils late legendary coach Lee Hill.
As an athlete, Campbell starred with Statesboro’s track and field team and competed in the 400-meter run at Savannah State University.
Campbell, who will work in in-school suspension, replaced boys basketball coach Jason Napier and track coach Laura Soles at SEHS. Soles will continue to coach cross country and work with the Mustangs distance runners in track.
Campbell will coach the safeties in football.
But his biggest challenge appears to be indoors, coaching a boys basketball team that won only five games last season and failed to win a game in competitive Region 2-AAAAAA.
Perhaps more importantly, the Mustangs haven’t beaten cross-county rival Effingham County in 14 years.
“I’ve been following South Effingham for 15, 20 years and I think they have kids with (basketball) potential. They just haven’t been able to put it together,” said Campbell, who hopes to bond his players by increasing playing time in the summer.
The Mustangs will compete in summer leagues at Savannah High and Savannah Country Day and attend a camp at the University of South Carolina conducted by Gamecocks men’s basketball coach Frank Martin.
And there will be some summer games against the rival Rebels. Campbell said his team’s progress against ECHS will be an initial measuring stick.
“Our No. 1 goal is to beat Effingham County,” Campbell said. “That’s the plan. It’s a hard region, but we have to start winning in Effingham first.”