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Zopf: 'Bout time for some basketball
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I’m sure there are a lot of people around here who can’t get over the fact that high school football in Hall County is over.

I’m sure there are several people spending Friday nights wondering what to do now that Gainesville and Flowery Branch — the last two teams standing — are no longer strapping on the pads.

I’m sure there are hundreds already missing the season.

Not me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love covering high school football and seeing the vast amount of talent this area has to offer. But after freezing my tail off watching Buford’s game Friday, I can honestly say that I’m glad football season is over.

You know who else is glad? Basketball coaches.

Sure, the majority of them will tell you that they’re not happy their respective football teams are no longer playing, and that the disappointment that comes with a season-ending loss doesn’t translate to enjoyment in terms of getting their players back on the court.

I don’t buy it.

Just take Gainesville’s boys basketball team for example.

Last year, as the Red Elephants were making their way to the Class AAA football finals, the basketball team struggled.
With stars like Blake Sims, Chris West and A.J. Johnson still on the gridiron, Gainesville won just three of its first 10 games and didn’t really get rolling until Jan. 12, when it reeled off four straight wins.

“Last year’s team was very talented, we just couldn’t get clicking on all cylinders,” said Gainesville coach Todd Cottrell, whose season ended after a loss in the Region 7-AAA tournament. “I don’t know if having all those guys missing at the beginning was the reason for that.”

Like the rest of his coaching counterparts, Cottrell said he “wishes they were still playing because he knows the amount of time each kid invests in each sport.” But at the same time, “it certainly helps having our full complement of players,” he said.

I’d say.

Basketball is a sport that you can’t just throw five guys together and expect immediate success. Don’t believe me? Look at what’s going on with the Miami Heat, who put together a team around two and a half stars (sorry, Chris Bosh) and are struggling to find cohesion because Dwyane Wade missed a significant amount of time due to injury.

That lack of chemistry occurs almost every year when football season overlaps basketball season. Coaches and fans all want their football team to keep playing, but let’s face it, the longer they stay on the field means the longer it will take to get acclimated to the game on the court.

“I don’t think the physical part takes that long,” Cottrell said. “The biggest thing is starting over with a new group of guys and implementing the stuff you have on offense and defense.”

Now, he nor the rest of the coaches in this area have to worry about that. Football season has been in the books for more than a week now, and most of the football players are already making an impact on the basketball court (North Hall’s Kanler Coker and West Hall’s Shunquez Stephens are just two examples).

I’m sure those two guys and the rest of the two-sport stars would much rather be competing for a state football title than running wind sprints to get in basketball shape, but for hoop fans across the area, it’s a good thing they’re not.

By the time Lanierland begins Dec. 21, each participant will have had almost a month with their full roster of players, which means the games will be better, the talent level higher, and the tournament more wide-open.

Maybe by then all the woe-is-me football fans out there will realize there’s still something to do on Friday nights: Attend a basketball game.

Jonathan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. You can follow him at

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