Young basketball team surprising with success

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Sophomore Jermontae Hill shoots a free throw in Grady’s 67-45 home win against Decatur on November 11th.

After a 7-17 season, the Grady boys basketball team is hoping for a better year despite having a relatively young team. The team will play a 25-game season with hopes of gaining a spot in the state tournament.

“This season, our goal is to grind and make it to the state championship,” senior guard Aedan Kaduma said. “It’s my senior year so we have to make this season count.”

To kickoff the season, Grady held its ‘Midnight Madness’ event, an intrasquad scrimmage/pep rally, on Nov. 10. The event included Grady’s feeder school, Inman Middle School, which was invited to play the freshman team. “This is our second year doing Midnight Madness and we had a lot of people come last year,” coach Brian Weeden said. “This year, Dr. Bockman wanted us to invite Inman to come play so we could get the cluster involved.”

The turnout for the ‘Midnight Madness’ event was better than the previous two years. The teams used the event as both a fundraiser and a way to showcase the new squad to the community.

“It was a great turnout, we had a lot of people come over from Inman because that is what we are trying to do, we are trying to bridge the gap and have more Inman kids participate in sports,” Athletic Director John Lambert said. “Because, as you may know, there are a lot of inman kids that come to Grady and have not played any sports.”

After graduating five seniors last year, the coaches are looking to younger players to step up. The varsity team has nine sophomores and only two seniors, making the Knights far younger than past years. Coaches were looking beyond age and experience during tryouts, and more at the players’ work ethic and love for the game.

“During tryouts, we were looking for players that love to work and want to get better everyday,” Weeden said. “We want players with a mindset that love to win.  We only have two returning seniors, Jadyn Graham and Terrance Harvey. We also have about nine sophomores.”

Weeden stressed the importance of winning region games, which place the team in position to advance to state. The season’s 25 games include 14 conference games and 11 out of conference games. The knights are 2-1 in region games so far, beating Decatur and Banneker 67-45 and 69-66 respectively. The knights lost to undefeated Maynard Jackson 60-68.

“The goal is to get to the state tournament,” Weeden said. “We did not make it last year, but we have a lot of new players, and only two returning from the team last year. To get to state, the first thing we have to do is win our region and that starts by protecting our home floor.”

The players are on a strict workout schedule that requires them  to workout before school from 6-8:15 am and after school from 5:30-8 pm. The players use the weight room, track and gym during their practices.

“The practices are long and tough, but they make us a lot better as a team,” senior guard Jayden Graham said. “To be good, we have to work.”

Although having younger players usually means the team will be worse off, Weeden believes  this year will be different.

“I definitely think this year we will be better off because the younger classes are loaded with talented players” Weeden said. “We have had only decent incoming classes for the last 4 years or so,” Weeden said.

The season began with an out of region preseason 83-48 loss to perennial Class AA state contender  South Atlanta.

“I think we are going to see a bit of growing pains, and we are going to have to grow up fast,” Lambert said. “I expect this to be a little bit of a rebuilding year, so I don’t have extremely high expectations for this year, but my expectations will be very high the next few years.”

The knights got off to a rough out of conference start, losing all four games. Despite this, the knights won two of their three conference games.

 

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