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Busy summer on tap for Tigers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’ll be nearly six months before the Troup Tigers play their first basketball game.

The Tigers aren’t sitting around and waiting for the season to arrive, though.

The Tigers, under the direction of second-year head coach Blake Craft, have a busy summer planned, and they got things started this week with workouts at the school.

The Tigers are coming off a successful season that included the program’s first state-tournament win in a number of years.

Now, the goal is to build off of that success, and hopefully make the 2018-2019 season an even more fruitful one.

Craft believes having a productive summer is critical when it comes to putting a winning team on the floor.

“I think this part right here in the summer is what makes the difference in January and February,” Craft said on Thursday afternoon while watching his players practice free throws. “In the season, you’re playing three days a week. You’re game-planning for the next game. In the summer, you’re teaching. It’s about the fundamentals of the game. You’re teaching basketball acumen.”

The Tigers began their summer workouts this week, and they had practices in the gym on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Troup will maintain that schedule throughout the summer, with the exception of the week of July 4th when no organized team activities are allowed.

In addition to the workouts, Troup will also play around 15 games, with the first games scheduled for next week.

While the games are fun, Craft believes the workouts at the school are even more important.

“The biggest things are the things we do in the morning, building skill,” Craft said. “I think sometimes you can play too much. I think 10 to 15 is the most I’m going to do.”

In Craft’s first season, the Tigers enjoyed the most success they’d had in years.

Troup, after finishing third in Region 5-AAAA, went on the road and beat Northwest Whitfield in overtime in the first round of the state tournament before losing to St. Pius X.

“They had the first winning season in seven years, their first time winning a state game, so the bug is starting to bite,” Craft said. “They want to be in the gym.”

While the Tigers will have to replace guard Jarrious Jefferson, the region’s player of the year, it’ll be a talented group returning next season.

Among the returnees is senior Christen Copeland, and he said the summer workouts will be a major benefit for the players.

“You have to get the chemistry right, and get your legs back used to it,” Copeland said.

Copeland believes the team can build on what it did last season.

“Last year, even though we lost to St. Pius, we fought hard,” Copeland said. “I think we can keep that momentum going this season.”

Another one of the returning players is junior Trey Williams, who is also a key member of the football team as a running back.

“You come in here and work, keep getting shots up so you won’t be rusty when the season comes around,” Williams said.

Williams added that “we’re very hungry. We want to try to go to the state championship this year.”

Craft has emphasized to the team members the importance of being at the workouts.

To drive that point home, the players who are the most diligent about coming to the workouts will get the most playing time in the games.

“I told them the guys that come here the most, they get to go to the first play date,” Craft said. “If you don’t, you don’t get to go. We’ve got to start building that tradition. You’ve got to be here.”

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