COACH: Brian Anderson
2018-19 RECORD: 17-13
Courtney McBride, 6-3, Jr.
Darrion Dalton, 6-0, Sr.
WHO TO WATCH:
RJ Noord, 6-3, Jr.
James White, 6-4, Jr.
Christian Davis, 5-10, Sr.
Akeem Washington, 6-5, Sr.
Dash Boston, 5-11, Jr.
Jalen Boston, 6-4, Soph.
OUTLOOK: The sudden departure of Heritage head basketball coach Vernon Denmark last May, who led the Patriots to back-to-back Final Four appearances the past two seasons, left the program in need of a new frontman.
With several candidates interviewing for the position, it was Brian Anderson who won over the Heritage administration, who has spent the last decade plus helping reinvigorate programs across the state of Georgia.
Already well aware of the Patriots’ large turnover from last season when taking over the position, a team that graduated all five of its starters and several key role players, Anderson voiced his excitement to take over a team ready to pave its own path.
“I knew coming in that they were graduating a lot,” Anderson said. “But that’s what excites me to come here to start a new journey with new guys. It’s been exciting so far. We’ve put in a lot of work.”
With expectations from the outside looking in relatively low entering the offseason, Anderson and the Patriots received a huge boost just weeks into his tenure. RJ Noord, one of the state’s top 2021 guards, let the first-year head coach know that he would soon be joining the team.
A native of Conyers, Noord attended Edwards Middle School before taking his talents to Columbia High School in nearby Decatur, Georgia. Last season, Noord attended Greenforest Christian Academy, one of the state’s premiere private schools in Decatur before choosing to return home to Heritage this summer.
Noord currently holds offers from Xavier, Elon and Winthrop and has received interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech and Clemson.
“I’m excited to be back because I know everybody,” Noord said. “I just like to play basketball and that’s really my main focus.”
Anderson was quick to realize the rising star potential in fellow junior James White, who spent the 2018-19 season as a junior varsity member at Heritage. Like Noord, White has received Division 1 interest and recently took an unofficial visit to Boston College.
With Noord and White expected to be a great 1-2 punch for the Patriots this season, Anderson got an opportunity this summer to figure out what he can build around his star juniors.
“I took away from (the summer) that our guard play is going to be really strong,” Anderson said. “We’re not traditionally big, but we have guys that can hustle and can get big underneath.”
Anderson pointed to the likes of seniors Darrion Dalton, Christian Davis and Akeem Washington as being players to help anchor the Patriots. He also pointed to several other Patriots that will play significant minutes this season.
“Courtney McBride brings a lot of toughness and energy,” Anderson said. “Dash and Jalen Boston are two more. Jalen is a sophomore and he’s going to get a good amount of minutes this year. Those names, for sure, will be in the rotation for us.”
Having made runs to the Final Four in back-to-back seasons out of Region 3-AAAAAA, Anderson has set the bar high for the Patriots. Without looking too far ahead, the first-year head coach isn’t looking at the upcoming season as a rebuilding year, but rather a reload.
“Our primary focus is to win the region,” Anderson said. “Once you get into the state tournament, it’s just going to scouting our opponent and coming up with a gameplan one game at a time. Do I think we can make that (Final Four) push? Absolutely. But I want to temper that and not get too far ahead of ourselves. We just want to be playing our best basketball in February.”