MARIETTA -- Alcovy basketball’s 2018-19 season ended eerily similar to those of past seasons under head coach Mack Hardwick’s tenure - close but no cigar.

The Tigers’ playoff hopes fell short for the second consecutive year after posting a 3-8 Region 3-AAAAAA record, but their recent struggles appeared to be a distance past when they took to the court this June for upwards of 30 summer games.

With the likes of rising senior Oliver Gerald throwing down thunderous two-handed dunks and Dylan Driver frustrating opponents on defense, Hardwick had nothing but positive things to say at the conclusion of their recent trip to Wheeler High School to compete in the first-annual NCAA Georgia/GHSA team camp.

“The guys are playing pretty well,” Hardwick said. “The biggest thing that I can say is that Alcovy is executing both offensively and defensively for the first time in years. Over the past couple of seasons, they have definitely been maturating when it comes to defense. It was the offensive piece that we’ve been missing.”

We now have a true offensive playbook and a true defensive playbook. (This summer), seeing the guys gel and the chemistry that they've had, it has been astounding to see. That’s all I’ve ever cared about since I’ve been here.”

A big reason for their summer success has come from the amount of games Hardwick signed his team up to play in. Playing in less than 10 games in each of Hardwicks’ first three seasons at the helm, the veteran coach said a change was needed.

“This is the first time that I’ve decided to play this many games in the summer,” Hardwick said. “Usually we’ll have practice and development over most of the summer and take a week to go to Clayton State University to play a few games there. This year, we wanted to do something different.”

That difference has centered around Hardwick’s Tigers playing at least one game a day. By the end of June, Hardwick had accomplished that goal.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do in efforts to build that chemistry and play together,” Hardwick said. “Match that with the conditioning that we’ve done, they’re getting in shape. We still have a lot of strides to make, though. The offense and defense each have a few more quirks that we need to work out, but things are looking very hopeful for next season.”

For an Alcovy basketball program that has not posted a winning season since 2012, Hardwick fully expects to see a different vibe in the months that lead up to the start of the 2019-20 season.

“People need to come out next season and see the new Alcovy,” Hardwick said. “These kids are very talented and they’re working hard, too. They’re buying into the system, building up their basketball IQ and learning how to be a team. Hopefully, we’ll have a breakout year.”

Sports Editor

A 2017 graduate of the University of North Georgia, Colin joined the Rockdale/Newton Citizen in March of 2018 as the papers' full-time sports editor. A 2013 graduate of Jackson County High School, Colin received a golf scholarship to Andrew College.