By: Donald Heath/Effingham Herald
SPRINGFIELD – During his first meeting with the Effingham County boys basketball players, first-year coach Tramaine Aaron had an unusual question.
"I asked them, "What do you need from me?" " Aaron said about a coach-player dialog that took an 180-degree detour from the perceived norm. "I already know what I need from you, but what position do you see yourself playing? How many touches do you need? How many shots do you feel comfortable taking?
"I took all that information in. I watched their films and came up with a game plan, putting guys in positions where they can be most effective."
Aaron's strategy will be on display Friday night when the Rebels open the basketball season at St. Andrew's.
Aaron took over for interim coach Travis Priddy, who guided ECHS to a 17-9 record last season.
The experienced, senior-laden squad started 8-1, but tailed off at the end, lost to Evans 34-32 in the first round of the region tournament and failed to make the state playoffs for the first time in four years.
It was particularly disappointing because the Rebels beat Evans twice during the regular season.
Now Aaron will be asked to take the program, which has won 17 or more games in 11 of the last 13 seasons, to a higher level. He comes with a plethora of playing and coaching experience. He was starting point guard for two-time state champion Wheeler, earned NAIA All-America honors at Berry College, then played professional ball in Germany.
He was a head coach at Central Arizona College, but when the junior college went in a different coaching direction, Aaron and ECHS athletic director Jake Darling, his teammate at Berry, had a chance to team up again.
"It's been fun," said Aaron about coaching at the high school level. "I have to remember these guys are still learning a lot. You don't have to hold their hands, but you have to be very thorough and very detailed. If I have a misstep in explaining something, they're going to have three missteps."
Aaron has some returning talent. Six-foot-5 senior post player Jordan Goldwire will be a key in the middle. Athletic 6-1 forward Jeremiah "Paco" Lee and shooting guard Hayden Eason are back after cracking the starting lineup last year.
Freshman point guard Anthony "Trey" Davis III has displayed good decision making. Football players Meaz Cope, Damion Gordon and Lamar Roberts should provide depth.
"The buy-in is what I'm most pleased with," Aaron said. "Everyone is taking everything seriously – (lifting) weights seriously, class seriously, practice seriously. We'll be OK."