The times are changing at Calhoun High School for the girls basketball program. The Calhoun Lady Jackets are in the midst of new beginnings with a new head coach at the helm in Jaime Echols.
“I think anytime you get someone new, there’s a little bit of excitement there,” Echols said. “The excitement for me was a little bit different. I’m coming from an area where kids really specialize in their sports, and here, I think it’s a great thing we’ve got so many kids that play so many sports.”
Echols arrived in northwest Georgia after coaching girls basketball the previous 10 years at Grovetown High School, just west of Augusta. Echols was announced as Calhoun’s new girls basketball head coach in March.
“Everyone here has been very helpful,” Echols said. “Basketball-wise, everything that we’ve done has exceeded my expectations. The work we put in this summer, our preseason workouts and just the commitment (and) the way the kids work has been really good. We’ve got a long ways to go to get where we want to be, but everything’s on track.”
Roster-wise, the Lady Jackets will have two seniors: Erin Barnes and Anna George. The list also features six juniors.
“Our greatest asset is probably our size,” Echols said. “We do have good size and we’re going to have to utilize that. We’ve got a few six footers.”
Echols said the biggest area for improvement is working within the system the Lady Jackets will have, in particular learning the concepts and functionalities of a man-to-man system.
“Learning the way we do things, particularly on the defensive end, is going to be a work in progress,” Echols said. “I’m pretty sure that they’ll get it, and when they get it, it will be fun to watch.”
Echols said most of the girls on this year’s roster played last season with a few additions. Echols noted his squad’s team chemistry has been a strong factor in the continual growth of the unit.
“They all know each other and they all get along well,” Echols said. “Something we talk about daily is how to be a good teammate, how to be a leader, how to address things when they need to be addressed.”
Echols said his coaching style begins and ends with defense. Echols expressed his desire to play more man-to-man style on the defensive end.
“We really concentrate on our halfcourt defense,” Echols said. “We won’t press a ton, but we like to hang our hat on defense.”
Echols noted the competitive nature of Region 6-AAA in girls basketball. After finishing third-to-last in region play last season, the Lady Jackets are eager for a turnaround.
“It’s going to be a battle to get those four spots to make the playoffs and every single night is going to be a battle,” Echols said. “Every single night is going to be tough.”
Echols said the team’s work ethic has been the aspect of offseason preparation that has impressed him the most.
“Every day, they’re working hard,” Echols said. “There’s not been one practice where we’ve had to coach effort. Their work ethic and attitude has impressed me from the summer.”
The goal this year will be the same as always: state playoffs. Echols said the goal is very much attainable.
“We’ve got to make sure every day we leave the gym that we’re better than the day before,” Echols said. “It is a process ... but we’re working on being fundamental and getting those defensive concepts down and if we can do that and get better every day, we’re going to give ourselves a chance come region tournament time.”
When the Lady Jackets take the court, Echols said fans should expect to see a fundamentally sound unit.
“We want to do the little things well,” Echols said. “We want to be that team that boxes out and plays low and take good shots.”