Gone are the five starters that led the Eagles to a AAAAA state championship last March, gone is a head coach that became known for both winning games and stirring up controversy and gone are the state and national rankings that the program became accustomed to during the past five years.
But not everything is brand new. The 2012-2013 Eagles still have a roster littered with high level basketball players and interim head coach Van Keys is hard is at work in his efforts to bridge the gap from the David Boyd era to the future.
“We’re starting four juniors and a freshman against a national schedule. A lot of these guys have been on the varsity team before but never played [before this season],” said Keys, a long-time Milton employee that coached the Eagles for nine years through the late 90’s and early 2000’s. “It’s a learning experience and developing experience for a lot of them, but we expect them to improve throughout the season.”
Keys was hired on a one-year basis to coach the team on Oct. 23 — a move that followed two months of controversy surrounding Boyd and the Eagles’ program. Boyd, who led the Eagles to state championships in 2010 and 2012, resigned from his position in early September amidst allegations of ‘undue influence’ regarding an influx of basketball transfers into the school.
In early October the Georgia High School Association placed the basketball team on probation for the 2012-2013 season — preventing any sort of post season play — and a number of basketball players decided to transfer schools in search of greener pasture.
“Some players left before I ever took over, but how can you miss what you never had? I am all about the players that are here,” said the Milton coach. “We have no returning starters from last year’s team but some very talented players.”
The talent on the floor includes an imposing front line of Shawn O’Connell (6-foot-8 junior), Mo Lewis (6-foot-6 junior) and his brother Christian Lewis (6-foot-7 freshman). Junior guards Zach Hodskins and Justin Kornegay have made up the starting backcourt through the seasons first few weeks.
“We are spending a lot of time teaching and working on individual skill development with the guys,” said the Milton coach. “We are trying to play to the players strengths while giving them some structure. Some kids adapt easier than others so it is a work in progress.”
Milton is 1-5 to start their season with three of their losses coming to out of state teams. The Eagles will begin region play this week against Roswell and Etowah.