GUYTON — After a 1-25 campaign a year ago, the South Effingham boys basketball team is a reenergized bunch looking to surprise their foes this season.
The Mustangs’ hopes to turn the program around started in June and July when they competed in the Savannah High Summer League Tournament. The league is composed of teams from in and around Savannah, including traditional powerhouses Beach and Woodville-Thompkins.
For South Effingham head coach Jesse Osborne, it was the first opportunity for him to see how his new nucleus would compete together. Osborne said he wasn’t looking for his team to run the perfect play. He simply wanted them to focus on the basics of basketball.
“I wanted to get back to simplicity,” he said. “If you throw too much at them, they will forget how to play basketball. The big part of that is just hustling and giving everything you have when you are on the floor.
“I think that kind of helped out and allowed them to relax.”
Osborne discovered that his team has the agility to compete. This was a boost of confidence for the coach, who will use the Mustangs’ speed to challenge even the toughest teams on their schedule. Once they get the hang of going to coast to coast on the hardwood, Osborne plans to implement more tactics and design plays. But for now, he’s keeping things simple.
“I am hoping we can run the floor a little better and add a couple presses in to see how that works,” Osborne said. “This summer, I didn’t even put plays in. I wanted to see them hustle and see what they had.
“You could see the difference. We competed better.”
The Mustangs will kick the season off Friday at home against Groves but their biggest test early on will be a road game at Jenkins. The Warriors won just eight games a year ago but Osborne respects the history of their program.
“It’s how we are going to get better,” Osborne said about playing tough teams. “If we make the playoffs, and that is always our goal, we are going to see teams like that. We may as well go ahead and get into it. Hopefully, with the speed we have and the speed we have coming in, hopefully we can compete a little better than what we have in the past. I know Jenkins and Groves like to run the floor, run fast breaks and get out that way.
“Hopefully we can beat them where they are at.”
The Mustangs will return a veteran group in Taylor Jackson, Matt Calloway, Micheal Calloway and Walker Dickey. But Osborne has yet to determine who his starting five will be because several players are still playing football.
“We are still rooting them on, but we have some dudes out there,” Osborne said. “We are missing them.”
Osborne admitted that has had made a few personal adjustments. They range from how he runs practice to how he coaches.
“I learned a lot last year, things about my players and the things I can and cannot do,” he said. “I am excited about these players, what I have coming back and what I have coming to me. From a coaching philosophy, [I want to be] more disciplined on things. The way we get ready for games – the mental aspect of it. We are excited to see what the future holds.”