GUYTON — The Savannah High basketball team opened its gym during June for summer league play and South Effingham couldn’t turn own the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the area.
“The style of ball that we play is what we are going to see all year,” Mustangs head coach Jesse Osbourne. “The press and athleticism — I thought it made sense.”
As he reflected on how much the team has progressed, Osbourne recalledsome of the best summer contests, including a game that came down to the wire against Johnson.
“We were in it all the way until the end, constantly competing,” he said. “That’s all I ask for.
“The fans and the energy were there. You feel like you are in it every second of the game. It came down to the last two shots. It shows we are getting better.”
Although points were hard to come by during last year’s one-win season, one thing that has never been in question about his team’s willingness to compete. That same fiery spirit was evident in summer play where as the Mustangs hustled up and down the court, grabbing loose balls and trying to make plays.
“I like that we are competing,” Osbourne said. “We are getting used to the speed of the game. They are playing with each other more so they are learning each other’s habits.
“That team aspect has really come into play.”
Although the summer environment is casual, the goal remains the same. Osbourne is grooming his team but is spending more time evaluating versus coaching.
Instruction is given when needed but letting his team play and allowing the game to come to them naturally is what is most important.
“This summer, I was looking forward to working on fundamentals and getting back to the basics,” Osbourne said. “I didn’t have to worry about putting in plays. There is some coaching one-on-one on the side. It’s lax in that regard.
“When they are coming out for a sub, we are telling them what they need to do in certain situations.”
What’s been most pleasing to Osbourne is the squad’s level of commitment. Some players are juggling part-time jobs, multiple sports and other responsibilities.
There has been 10-16 guys showing up on any given night, confirming their dedication and desire to make the most of their time on the hardwood.
“All of them have stepped up but a couple returners off the top of my head is Taylor Jackson. His energy on the court is contagious,” Osbourne said. “Walter Dickey is going to step up for us. Under the rim, rebounding — that’s his game. He’s really shown me some stuff this summer. I can rely on him.”
Although no coach is going to complain about a player who can routinely score in double figures, Osbourne believes getting buckets is a shared responsibility and is hoping all five Mustangs on the court will get in on the scoring action. The way he sees it, the more scorers the better.
“You’re going to have those guys that break out and score 25,” he said. “But I feel like when we are sharing the ball and running the offense we are supposed to, everyone is going to have their 10-12 points and that’s what I want to see.”