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Hoops season nearing
Players refocusing for new year
Gainesville's Breshad Williams drives to the basket in front of Tyler Horning during a practice Tuesday at the school's gym. - photo by By Tom Reed

Key dates

2009-2010 basketball season

Nov. 14: Season officially begins

Nov. 23: Regions 8-AAA/7-AAA Battle takes place at Chestatee High School

Dec. 4: Lanierland begins

How will the West Hall girls replace Jayla Moon’s scoring? How will the Gainesville boys make up for not having George Manomano’s 20 points per game?

Can the Buford girls repeat as state champions and how are the area’s new coaches — Gary Barnes at Chestatee and Kory Bays at Johnson — acclimating to their surroundings?

While none of the aforementioned questions have been answered in the first two days of high school basketball practice, the foundation for answering those questions is beginning to be laid.

“This time of the season is a good time for players to establish themselves,” said second-year Gainesville boys coach Todd Cottrell, who took the Red Elephants to the Class AAA state semifinals in just his first year at the helm.

“It’s also a great time for kids to get the individual attention they might not get during the rest of the season.

“Our kids are excited about starting up as I’m sure most everyone around here is. This is when you build your foundation for the year.”

The focus for the first weeks of practice leading up to the first game for area teams is fundamentals, conditioning and getting the freshmen up to speed.

For the new coaches in the area, communication will be a focus as they try to get their players on board and understanding a new system.

For those select few coaches and programs who had incredible success last year, the first week will be spent refocusing while forgetting.

“Our kids know that last year’s last year,” Cottrell said. “We lost some good players who were also great teammates and you can’t replace those guys, you just have to move on.”

Like most of the boys programs in the area, and state, Cottrell will be without a few of his key players during the first few weeks of the season because they play football.

For some boys programs in the area, and state, that means practicing and playing without a starting point guard, shooting guard or big man.

Among those missing for Gainesville is starting point guard, and 2008 Times All-Area Player of the Year, Blake Sims, Chris West and A.J. Johnson.

Likewise, at West Hall, Shunquez Stephens is still on the gridiron while at Jefferson it’s Darius Minor.

“In our situation we have some very good kids still on the football field,” Cottrell said. “Kids that will start for us and will be key to our success.

“So what this time is about, these first few weeks starting with this week, is building depth and for kids who might not be seen if those other players were here, to have the chance to be seen.”

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