All the coaches and players spoke eagerly about getting the season started and having a successful campaign, and with several teams now being in different classifications and regions, such is highly possible.
However, the expectations for both programs at Jonesboro are the highest in the county due to Final Four appearances by both teams last year and the number of returning players.
The Cardinals will have seniors Daniel Peace, Patrick Petty, Chukedubem Okeke, Cameron Sutton and Casey Wells back and hoping to reach a third straight Class AAAA Final Four.
“Our main goal is we just want to win basketball games,” Jonesboro boys’ basketball coach Dan Maehlman said. “We are not concentrating on if we are going to be ranked in the preseason or what people’s expectations are of us.
“We are trying to get as good as we can get by the time the season ends,” Maehlman said. “Because once you get to the state playoffs anything can happen.”
Because of last season’s achievements and the return of seniors Victoria Florence, Briana Benson and Kim Dawkins, the Lady Cardinals are in the same boat but will have to prove themselves this time with new head coach Lamar Harris.
“We want to win a state championship,” Harris said. “But I often tell the girls that champions are made in the offseason.”
Meanwhile, some of the other teams like the North Clayton Eagles and Lovejoy Wildcats are looking to remain competitive after the graduation of Division-I players Marcus Hunt and Justin Tuoyo, respectively.
“We were blessed to have Justin Tuoyo and Jermaine Hough but Tuoyo and Hough are not walking through the Lovejoy doors anymore,” Lovejoy boys’ coach Rick Francis said.
The Drew Lady Titans, Forest Park Lady Panthers and Mundy’s Mill Lady Tigers are in similar predicaments with the departures of Precious Person, Ashlee Cole and Brianna McQueen, respectively.
We lost eight seniors," Drew girls' coach Candence Jackson said. "The word is we are a rebuilding team but I just figure we are still under construction."
The Drew Titans, who lost to Columbia in the Class AAA title game, also lost 11 seniors.
"Last year, we were able to jump out of the gate because we had so much experience, but this year it's going to be a steady increase," Drew boys' coach Jarrod Davis said.
"I think we are going to be better towards the end than we will be in the early part of the season, which gives a lot of people a lot of opportunity and we understand that," Davis said. "But one thing about our guys is that we are not going to run from it. We will show up and play the game."