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ECHS boys’ basketball looks to build in the summer
Tremaine Aaron
Effingham County boys’ basketball coach Tramaine Aaron (right) discusses strategy with Joseph Polite during a game with Portal on Dec. 2, 2023. Aaron is using summer workouts to begin the rebuilding process. (Donald Heath for the Effingham Herald.)

By Donald Heath

Special for the Effingham Herald

SPRINGFIELD – There’s a lot of construction going on outside at Effingham County High School. A little less obvious in the Rebels gym, the boys’ basketball team begins its rebuilding project.

Second-year coach Tramaine Aaron loses eight seniors off a team that see-sawed through the 2023-24 season. The Rebels lost five games in a row early in the season, then won five straight games (including a victory over highly regarded Grovetown) just past the midway point.

ECHS beat Brunswick at home during the regular season, then lost to the Pirates also at home in the region tournament and failed to make the state tournament for the second straight year.

Maybe the Rebels’ 12-12 record accurately told the story of 2023-24.

The record also points out that, summer or not, it’s time to put in work for the 2024-25 season.

“We’ve had five play dates (in June) and played about 15 games. It was encouraging,” Aaron said. “We got a chance to see our young guys, experience-wise, compete and they held their own. Every game was a lesson. Our goal was to compete.”

Aaron also has a goal to bring continuity back to the program. Last year’s group played for its third coach in three years. Aaron was hired in the summer and spent only a few weeks with his new players before school started.

“I’m a player development kind of coach and I like basically having to show (the players) the way,” he said. “The summer gives you a chance to teach, to build a bond. I’m looking to establish a culture here.”

Aaron will definitely get his chance at player development. Six-foot-6 first-team, all-region forward Jordan Goldwire has graduated leaving a big void offensively and defensively in the middle.

ECHS also loses key perimeter shooter Hayden Eason, a second-team, all-region performer, to graduation.

The Rebels will have seniors Lamar Roberts, Damion Gordon and Joseph Polite coming back. Polite, a 6-2, 260-pounder, had a strong second half of the season and earned honorable mention all-region accolades.

But the rapid development of junior varsity players Elyjah Doty, Isaiah Scruggs, Noah Reese and Anthony “Tre” Davis III will be paramount to success.

Aaron has a template to follow. He was an All-American at Berry University and played professionally in Europe, but he has fond memories of high school.

Aaron was a two-time state champion as a player at Wheeler High and learned the game from legendary coach Doug Lipscomb.

Lipscomb won more than 600 games during his 25-year coaching career which ended in 2017. With Jaylen Brown (now with the Boston Celtics) leading the way, Lipscomb and Wheeler claimed their sixth state championship in 2015.

“Those are the same aspirations I have for (Effingham County),” Aaron said.