“Every year, it seems like we graduate more and more. Two years ago, we graduated six, then last year we graduated nine. Realistically, we’ve got four, five guys that played meaningful minutes coming back to us this year. Of those five, four of them will just be juniors. So we’ve got youth on our side now,” VR coach Jason Robinson said.
The new faces and graduated seniors won’t lead to a new approach, however. Villa Rica basketball will stick to the style that saw it make it to the Class AAAA state quarterfinals just two seasons ago.
“There are a lot of new faces, but we’re going to try to do the same things, for the most part. We’re going to continue to try get up and down the floor, shot the 3 and make it a track meet if we can. We’ve just got to find a few more track stars,” Robinson said.
While they might not all be seniors, the Wildcats return Josh Lay, Marcus Miller, Kelvin Bonds, Delano Mimms, Rodney Hill and De’Shaun Dorsey with experience. There will also be a couple players coming in with familiar last names. Hill’s younger brother, Ty, and graduated senior Malik El-Amin’s younger brother, Yassar, will both be freshmen and Lay is the third of three brothers to play varsity for Robinson.
Having brothers come through the program adds not only a family feel to the team, it also comes with established expectations.
“When you’ve got siblings coming through and they’ve got older brothers that have played, they’ve grown up seeing their older brother play and know the expectations coming in. I think that does go a long way. They don’t want to be the one that breaks the machine there, they want to keep the thing going. Sometimes that becomes a competitive thing, too, ‘I want to do better than my brother did,’ kind of deal. It’s exciting. No. 1, I’ve known a lot of these kids since they were really young. And No. 2, they’re almost like little coaches out there, too. They’re expectations are high. They’ve got a real desire to be successful and win,” Robinson said.
In the new classification and region, the Wildcats will drop the four Cobb County schools as well as Douglas County and Alexander while picking up Rome, Woodland-Cartersville and Allatoona. That will mean VR will compete with 10 other schools for a region title as opposed to the 14 from the past two years.
“With what we’ve got coming back and being in the region we’re in, we’re going to have a shot,” Robinson said.
The other new entity for VR will be a new gym — with an unknown move-in date.
“We’ve got a new gym coming in and that’s supposed to be opening in November. Depending on who you talk to you get a different date. They say November, the foreman says he’s five weeks behind. We’re going to play in that gym, at least a game I’m sure, we just don’t know when. That’s going to be something we’re going to have to adjust to, but it’s exciting. Got a lot going on,” Robinson said.
The summer has been useful to get some of the rust off from the offseason and get the guys together back on the court. And while game experience can be valuable, Robinson won’t know what he truly has until he is able to practice with his full team.
“The problem right now during the summer is we haven’t had a lot of practice time. If you can get five guys on the floor doing the same thing at the same time, then you’ve got a chance. That’s not always the case though in the summer,” Robinson said.
One thing that has developed this summer — and even a little last year — is developing some leadership.
“[Marcus Miller’s] been a good leader. In the offseason in the weight room, he was a leader and he’s done that this year. Those other guys, they’re just quiet. You know what you’re going to get out of them, they’re just not going to say a whole lot. As far as a vocal leader, [Miller] is one of them. Kelvin Bonds has stepped up. I don’t care who it is as long as someone steps up,” Robinson said.
Overall, the Wildcats played 30 to 35 games this summer and spent time at Carrollton, Bowdon, Lambert, Buford and Temple before finishing up against four teams at Alexander.
“We’ve played some different people than we’ve normally played during the summer. That being said, we’re basically working on us. We need to work on us getting better. We’ll take care of business there and have a shot to win,” Robinson said.