BY NICK SIMON THE TIMES-GEORGIAN
Suddenly transitioning from a senior-heavy roster full of experience one year to a young one dominated by underclassmen the next can be a tricky proposition for any program.
So how did Carrollton High School girls’ head basketball coach Shon Thomaston deal with that very circumstance this summer?
By throwing his team straight into the fire of summer ball, of course.
Thomaston and his Lady Trojans wrapped up their jam-packed circuit this past Saturday, where they scrimmaged against Collins Hill, Chapel Hill and Forest Park at Georgia Tech.
Logging in over 20 games throughout the three-week period, the veteran head coach wanted to see what he had with an almost entirely revamped lineup.
“We played a bunch of ball and we have to,” Thomaston said. “I have a whole new cast of characters, so the biggest thing was for us to get that experience.”
A “whole new cast of characters” is an understatement as Carrollton spent the summer trying to fill the gaps and figure out ways to replace seven recently graduated seniors from last winter’s Class AAAAA quarterfinal team.
In Thomaston’s estimation, the only way his now youth-driven team would get experience and develop cohesion would be to actually play.
“I probably played some kids who had no business being in a varsity uniform right now. At the same time, the only way to get them prepared for it was to put them in the fire. The good thing about it is, I’ve got some athletes on this team that can run, that can play and have good basketball IQs. So the biggest thing was to get that court time,” Thomaston said. “Court time is the best teacher. I can sit over on the sideline and tell you everything that you need to do, but I need to let you go out there and make your own mistakes, so we can get those corrected and get you where you need to be.”
The Carrollton coach went through some of the places his Lady Trojans took the court this summer, destinations that included trips to Columbus State and Douglas County High School among several others.
“Our first camp was at Mercer University and we got five games over there. Next we went to Mays High School in Atlanta and got eight games in at a really good team camp over there. We also went to Duluth High School and played four games in their Rose Classic,” Thomaston said. “We always try to make sure to get that court time in June, which is why I think we’re able to be somewhat successful in the season.”
Roster-wise, CHS experienced its summer without the presence of multi-year starters like Ansley Barge, Taylor Brown, Elexus Bell and Erial Daniel. However, the Lady Trojans do have a few experienced pieces returning to the fold.
Taking over as the floor general is sophomore and 2017-18 Times-Georgian All-Area Newcomer of the Year De’Mauri Flournoy, who in recent weeks has picked up major Division I offers from the University of Miami and Georgia Tech.
“Even the ones with experience are young,” Thomaston said. “The oldest one on the team Dyimond Watkins, who’s done a tremendous job in the paint. She’ll be who we’re looking to be our rock. Rachel Herrera is another person who’s returning from last year’s team. A good 3-point shooter and a hard-working kid. Then you have De’Mauri, who is probably the most experienced kid in that she started on the team last year with the seniors. She’s coming back to take care of that basketball for us and had a really good summer for us."
On top of his returnees, the Black and Gold head coach talked about a few newcomers who got their first shot at high school action this month.
“I’m really high on Kehinde Obasuyi. She is a talent. Her and De’Mauri as a tandem, you’d have hard time finding two young girls in the state of Georgia as good as those two. There may be some as good. But better? I don’t know,” Thomaston said.
“Another freshman, Marneja Daniel, plays so hard. That’s Erial Daniel’s younger sister. So she’s ready to come in and take those minutes. Shamari Vaughn is another freshman who’s a really athletic kid and can come in to do things that we hadn’t been able to do in a long time. Kelsie Thomas is coming out from the volleyball team. Another big girl at about six feet tall is going to be one of our post players. We got to get her some work in and get her where she needs to be so she can help us in the paint. Trinity Pless is another athletic freshman who just needs to get more playing time so she can help us down the road.”
As with every year for Thomaston, the month of June is just the starting point in making sure his girls are playing at an extremely high level once February rolls around.
Even with youth and inexperience aplenty, he’s excited about the group that he’ll have for the 2018-19 season. Their success will be tied to their court time.
“The attitudes have been great and the work ethic has been great. They’ve all come to play and that’s how I know that they’re going to be all right,” Thomaston said. “Right now it’s different, but the expectations will still be the same. I feel good about what I’m working with. We’ve got depth and good pieces at every position. The biggest thing is just getting that experience.”