However, this summer season is particularly important for the Cartersville basketball team as the Purple Hurricanes will return just three varsity players and no starters from the 2013 Class AAA quarterfinal team.
Cartersville concluded a 19-game summer schedule Tuesday at the Storm Center against Paulding County.
“We ended up doing a lot. We really improved as the summer went on,” head coach Mike Tobin said. “We tried to scrimmage as many teams as we could possible find. We tried to play AAAAA and AAAAAA schools, big schools but good programs. We took some good humble pie at the beginning of the year, but we sure got a lot better.”
Cartersville played Allatoona and Hillgrove twice, two teams that lost in Class AAAAA and Class AAAAAA quarterfinals last year, respectively. The Canes also played AAAAA Paulding County and AAAAAA Etowah among other strong teams.
“I talked to the Hillgrove coach and he thought they would be one of the top teams in their region. I talked to the Paulding County coach and he thought they might be one of the top teams in their region,” Tobin said of his team’s summer schedule. “I tell the guys, we couldn’t care less what our record is in the summer, we want to play the best competition. It definitely got us better because we started off the summer not looking really good and I was pleased with the way we finished.”
Tobin said there are less team members playing AAU basketball in the summer this year than in previous seasons, so it was important to get the players in the gym during the offseason.
“We ended up last year, we had like 3 1/2 weeks. This summer we went five. In July, we’re going to go twice a week with shooting workouts and we’re going to open it up and let the kids play,” Tobin said. “Since I came to Cartersville and the first year putting everything in, [this is one of the most important summers]. It is and it isn’t because the kids come from JV knowing what we’re trying to do, but it’s a big difference coming from the JV to the varsity. These kids are bigger, faster, stronger.”
Thirty-eight players participated in the summer program this season. Tobin said he emphasized boxing out on defense and limiting turnovers on offense.
“We play 10-minute running clock and we just work on different things,” he said. “We play some zone, or if people press us we can work on that stuff. We can get stuff done.”
Integrating younger players into the system also is a priority this summer as rising senior Bryce Gober is the only player returning who saw minutes in Cartersville’s playoff rotation. Zack Hacker also saw meaningful minutes during the year, but several players will be expected to contribute off the junior varsity team.
“We have some good young kids coming up, too. They’re used to middle school being a little different than high school ball,” Tobin said. “They had a good summer. We had a kid who wasn’t there last year, good football player, Alex Christina had a monster summer. He didn’t play last year, had some injuries with football, but has come out this year and looked really good. We had another kid, a soccer player and football kicker, Gabriel Gridley. He had a really good summer for us and had a real good JV season for us last year, too.
“Our JV went 14-2, so we definitely have some good kids to work with.”