Coach Kenny Walker returns for his second year leading the Rebels and lost just three seniors to graduation.
“It’s making a big difference — a year in the program, knowing the system and a little experience. We have three three-year starters, that’s a big plus to have that amount of experience. We then have some new kids coming in we’re hoping can contribute,” Walker said.
Leading the way will be the return of seniors Nii-Okai Reindorf, Lane Fortune and Mitchell Taylor.
“Nii-Okai is one of our leaders. He’s our defensive stopper. Big, strong, physical kid that plays hard. Lane Fortune is probably our best shooter and offensive player. Mitchell Taylor brings experience and ball-handling and good defense. We have a point guard this year that has grown up this offseason. He’s a junior, Jimothy Mitchell. We’ll be counting on him a lot to run our offense,” Walker said.
The second-year HC coach hopes to have big man Seth Neeley back by midseason. The 6-foot-7 center did not play basketball last year and broke his leg during the football season.
“But we’re hoping to have him back after Christmas break,” Walker said. “Then we’re adding Evan Jackson, a football kid, who’s about 6-5 and really strong.”
Walker added that Luke Richards and Jacob Carnes will be the first options off the bench.
The biggest boost for the Rebels might just be their new region as they remain in Class AAA with Central as a part of Region 4-AAA. Gone are some of the perennial powerhouses, but added are some unknown commodities. Only Jackson and Douglass come in with winning records last year, while Callaway was the only team to take a trip to the playoffs.
“I know one thing is I’m pleased not to be in the region we were in last year with Carrollton, Troup, LaGrange and Shaw. To be rid of them is one good thing. Central is really the only familiar opponent we got that we played last year. The rest are either coming up from AA or coming down from AAAA. I’m expecting the Atlanta schools — Douglass and Jackson — to be pretty strong. Callaway and Chapel Hill will be small and quick and Rockmart has some good athletes,” Walker said.
For now, starting with Tuesday’s scrimmage at home against Pacelli at 7:30 p.m., and into the season opener when the Rebels host Bowdon on Nov. 30, the focus is getting everything ready for region.
“We don’t have a region game until January, so this first part of the season we’ll use to mesh and mold together and learn to work together. That’s what we’re working on in practice now,” Walker said. “Just trying to find that chemistry, where our shots are going to come from and our defense. We’re going to play a little more pressure defense this year than we did last year. Just trying to find some good combinations.”