CONYERS -- The second annual Rockdale County basketball Media Day was held Wednesday evening at Salem High school with each team having an opportunity to give their thoughts on the upcoming season for the first time.
Wednesday’s Media Day gave the area their first look at three new head coaches in the area, Brian Anderson, the new head boys coach at Heritage, Inglis Hunter, the new boys head coach at Salem and ShaLisha Davis, the new head girls coach at Salem.
The event was also the introduction of several new players in the area including Heritage transfer RJ Noord, who last played at Greenforest High School.
Taking center stage first were the Rockdale County girls, led by second-year head coach Sean Turley. Turley helped lead the Bulldogs to their first Elite 8 appearance since 2004 after defeating Mill Creek in the Round of 16 last season.
Representing the Lady Bulldogs on the night was senior Alliyah McKnight and junior Alana Moore. Moore averaged eight points and 7.5 rebounds as a sophomore while McKnight averaged 2.7 rebounds in limited playing time as a junior.
Coming off of their historic season, Turley hopes to experience much of the same this season.
“I’ve liked what they’ve done over the summer as far as their work ethic and their mindset,” Turley said. “That’s gotten a lot better. I’m looking for these two young ladies, especially, to lead us to where we’re trying to go.”
Up next were the Rockdale County boys led by veteran head coach Tyrone King and seniors Kevin Sesberry and Jheim McDonald. As a junior, Sesberry led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points per game. McDonald finished second on the team in made three-pointers with 29.
After working through an up-and-down 2018-19 campaign, King said he is thrilled two have two of his biggest leaders back this season.
“This year, we have two humble guys,” King said of Sesberry and McDonald. “It doesn’t matter to them who scores and who doesn’t as long as we get the win. Communication is one of the keys that we lacked last year. This year, I think that will be what makes us a better team.”
The Bulldogs were followed by the Heritage girls. Second-year head coach Eric Spivey took the stand with juniors Sade Harrell and Kristyn Goshay, both of whom helped lead the Patriots to a second straight Region 3-AAAAAA title last season.
Harrell, who was recently offered by Jacksonville University, led the team in scoring with 14.5 points last season and was tied for first in rebounds with 6.7. Goshay, the Patriots’ starting point guard, averaged 7.7 points and 2.7 assists as a sophomore.
Spivey touched on the the young crop of talent that the Patriots have coming in this season and the importance of the verteran leadership that both Harrell and Goshay possess.
“This year, we have a lot of young talent coming up,” Spivey said. “They are willing to let (Harrell and Goshay) lead us and I’m sure they are ready to lead. Last year, we had three seniors that played significant minutes for us. We know that we have young players that are talented, but without the experience, it’s going to be a struggle.”
The Heritage boys followed Spivey and the girls, marking the debut of Anderson as the Patriots’ head coach. Anderson replaces verteran head coach Vernon Denmark, who left for Stockbridge.
Anderson was joined by Noord, James White and Darion Dalton, all of whom are expected to make significant impacts in their first season starting for the Patriots. White, a junior, did not play varsity last season, while Dalton, a senior, averaged two points in a limited role.
Noord, a junior, currently occupies several offers including Xavier.
Anderson spoke on the Patriots’ large turnover from last season, a team that graduated all five of its starters in most of its 2018-19 games.
“I knew coming in that they were graduating a lot,” Anderson said. “They had a great 2-year run, but that’s what had me excited about taking over this program. Creating a new journey with new guys. It’s been exciting so far. We’ve put in a lot of work.”
First-year head coach Shalisha Davis and her Lady Seminoles took the stage next. Davis was joined by junior Cassidy Cook and senior Kianna Bell.
Davis, who last coached at Central Gwinnett HIgh School, takes over a Salem program that won just three games last season. Both Cook and Bell saw action last season for the Seminoles and are both expected to play larger roles in the upcoming 2019-20 season.
After struggling to win games last season, Davis said she doesn’t expect the overhaul to happen over night.
“Same goal, different team,” Davis said. “(Salem) struggled last season. It’s definitely a process. We started in June and every day, we’ve just worked to get better. One day at a time, one workout at a time, one practice at a time.”
In the nightcap, Hunter and his Salem boys squad answered questions from the media on hand. Hunter, who last coached at Booker T. Washington High School, was joined by senior Jeremiah Venson and junior Emmanuel Milon.
Venson averaged nine points and 3.1 rebounds as a junior last season while Milon averaged 3.3 points in limited action as a sophomore.
With Hunter replacing Jarrod Davis at head coach, who stepped down last season to accept Salem’s opening at Athletic Director, the first-year coach has already built a great relationship with both the former coach and his new team.
“He’s let me do my own thing,” Hunter said. “He’s kind of backed off a little bit. I don’t go to him as much as I did when I first got here. He told me that this is my team and is letting me run it how I see fit. He’s been very supportive in pretty much everything that I’m trying to do.”
Full previews of the six local Rockdale County teams will be released before the start of the 2019-20 season both online and in the Rockdale Citizen print edition.