A summer together hopefully will pay dividends for the Effingham County Rebels basketball team.
A core group of players hit the tournament trail during their summer break and had regular workouts. Not only did they sharpen their on-court skills, they also began to blend together well.
“We produced and performed well,” said coach Travis Dickey. “Our team chemistry is good. They gelled and it has shown. We have been working hard and what makes them work as hard is they don’t want to let each other down.”
Seniors Jon Duff and Nolan Spake are back, as is strong-shooting junior Perry Herbert. Stephen Tarpley, who missed last season, is expected to contend for a key spot.
“We’re looking for him to fill in at point guard, along with Kris Roberts, who has improved his agility,” Dickey said.
Ball-handling is still a question mark, and the Rebels were plagued by turnovers last year.
Juniors Darryl Wright and Marquel Manior will handle most of the Rebels’ duties in the paint.
“They have all the athletic ability they need,” Dickey said. “We’re looking for them to get more aggressive, crashing the boards at the right time, setting good screens and boxing out. We’re working on those things. It’s not there yet. But we expect it will come.”
Doing the little things well is important to the Rebels, who won’t have a lot of depth this year, either.
“It is of utmost importance to us,” Dickey said. “We can draw up the best Xs and Os, but if we’re not going to execute them, it’s not going to do us any good.”
The Rebels ended last 2-19 with a young team that struggled to adjust to the level of competition.
“I felt we ended the season strong,” Dickey said. “I felt the last couple of games, we caught up to the speed of the game.”
The Rebels were hurt by the defection of five players at midseason and lost two more over the summer. Dickey isn’t looking back at last season.
“It was losing the games that hurt,” he said, and not the loss of a large chunk of the team. “We definitely want to improve. I’m confident we are going to be better prepared. We’re confident we have a group of kids who are going to give us everything they’ve got.”
But Dickey said his returning players are ready for the challenge they got last year when they were thrown into the fire.
“The ones we do have have caught up to the speed of the game, and it has showed,” he said.