Coaching basketball at a junior college like Georgia Highlands always means preparing for a quick turnover rate. And while both the Chargers and Lady Chargers have said goodbye to a number of special players, they’re always well-equipped to reload.
And if both teams want to return to the NJCAA national tournament, then it’s going to have to start with a group of young players looking to make their mark at GHC.
“We’ve been fortunate to be in this situation before,” Chargers head coach Phil Gaffney said. “We’re proud of our guys who have moved on with scholarships, and we’ve got plenty of new guys this season. And these are guys who are athletic and fit into the type of basketball we play here.”
Both teams play their first games of the season this week, beginning with the men hosting Motlow State tonight at 7:30 p.m. at The Corral.
The men’s team said goodbye to six players from last season, including Kyvon Davenport going to Memphis and Ty’lik Evans going to Savannah State. Forward D’Andre Bernard is the only player to return.
The Chargers welcome talented newcomers such as point guard Quayon Williams-King and redshirt freshman guard Jeremiah Buford. Williams-King comes from an illustrious high school career in New Jersey, while Buford returns after a leg injury last season.
Time will tell how the players respond to Gaffney’s press-oriented, quick-pace style of basketball.
“We are always going to run a press, but there’s a chance we might scale back this season,” Gaffney said. “This might be a season where we work better running a half-court press, as opposed to the last few seasons with the full-court.”
Tonight’s contest is a rematch of the Sweet 16 of last season’s NJCAA Tournament, which the Chargers lost 70-69 in a heartbreaker.
The Lady Chargers bring a little more back from their NJCAA Region XVII runner-up finish last season with three returners. Guard Brianna Davis and forward Kateryna Khomenko both return after finishing in the top three in scoring for the team.
Georgia Highlands still boasts plenty of freshmen, including former Coosa player Cassie McFather.
Just like Gaffney, women’s coach Brandan Harrell is worried more about how his players adjust than the final result in their early games.
“I think these early games are about understanding our process” Harrell said. “Some players come into here from high school and have trouble grasping the offense and defense. And you learn better when you’re going against difficult competition.”
The Lady Chargers travel to Morristown, Tennessee, this weekend for a tournament at Walters State. They open the season against Roane State on Friday.