By TAYLOR DENMAN email@example.com
Down by one point with less than 15 seconds on the clock, recent Glynn Academy girls basketball hire Sharnesha Smith called a timeout.
There are more than five months remaining until the games actually count, but Smith arranged a play and the huddle chattered as if it were a City Championship game in February.
Glynn inbounded the ball, but couldn't set a screen to free up point guard Asia Bacon. Glynn frantically rotated the ball for a few seconds before turing it over and fouling Wayne County in transition. The final: Wayne 36, Glynn Academy 35.
Growing pains are expected this time of year, especially with a new head coach. That's why five southeast Georgia teams, including GA and Brunswick High, entered into Tuesday's Mariner Shootout at College of Coastal Georgia to iron out the kinks.
Lady Mariners head coach Roger Hodge, a former high school coach, knows about growing pains. It wasn't long ago Hodge and the Mariners were experiencing them in his first season as head coach at Coastal.
"This is an invaluable time," Hodge said. "The larger part is getting to know your kids and them getting to know you.
"Knowing the expectations, knowing what buttons you're trying to push to make them better. I've always felt like the summer is as important as the first part of your regular season."
The summer of 2017 is Hodge's first from start to finish at Coastal, thus the Mariner Shootout is his first high school camp. He based the format roughly on events he helped curate as a coach at Armstrong State and Lincoln Memorial.
In its infancy, this year's camp included five teams: GA, Brunswick, Richmond Hill, Wayne and Camden County. Hodge has ambitions to expand the tournament and utilize local high schools as satellite sites. At Armstrong, Hodge said it wasn't out of the ordinary to host as many as 40 teams in one tournament.
The first step in expanding the Mariner Shootout is to ensure high school coaches are satisfied with their experience, including the level of competition and the amount of games. From there, five teams could grow to 10 tens and hopefully 20 teams as the turnout increases exponentially.
Hodge said growing the tournament not only stems from networking with high school coaches in southeast Georgia, but also Coastal Georgia's success during its girls basketball season. Hodge hopes his first recruiting class of 11 players is a step in the direction toward success. Growing his basketball program and recruiting pipeline go hand-in-hand, but he realizes it's not as simple as explaining it.
This is not the first time Hodge is trying to build a competitive, talent-filled camp from the ground up. Hodge started from scratch at Armstrong and Lincoln Memorial. Coastal Georgia is just his latest endeavor.
"We're hoping that same thing will happen here, that we're able to grow it each year," Hodge said. "There are obviously other factors involved ... but our hope is this will become a major part in our recruiting."
Hodge said the fundraising aspect of high school camps is usually minimal, unless there is a large volume of teams at multiple sites, as he has planned in the future. Tuesday's focus from Coastal Georgia's perspective was to survey the area talent.
"It's a way to get to know coaches here and see some of the players in the area," Hodge said. "In past camps I've had, almost invariably we've signed kids we saw directly from the camp, so we're hoping that can develop as well."
Photo by Taylor Denman of The Brunswick News.