MARIETTA -- Five weeks removed from his hiring at Newton, Charlemagne Gibbons has, on a day-by-day basis, began to inject his swagger into the new-look Rams basketball program.

From their roster being wiped clean of three starters, to the departure of longtime head coach Rick Rasmussen, Gibbons’ first introduction to the Rams last month was not taken lightly. His stern demeanor was quick to let both returners and newcomers to the program know that the state of the program was in good hands.

“The first time I saw them, they didn’t know me and I didn’t know them,” Gibbons said. “It was kind of like walking on eggshells. I think that they know that I care and know that I’m trying to do the best for them, both on and off the court.”

With a busy schedule set for the month of June in the days that followed, Gibbons said he has watched his crop of Rams slowly but surely open up and embrace both he, and his stable of assistants.

“I think that’s made the guys more comfortable to let their guard down so that we can help them improve,” Gibbons said. “We’ve spent a lot of time working to get there and upping the level of trust that they should have in their coaches.”

Three-plus weeks of practice, camps and live-game action against fellow high school programs helped prepare Gibbons and the Rams for this past weekend’s NCAA Georgia/GHSA Team Camp.

Tipping off against Eagles Landing, Centennial, Cedar Shoals and Thomasville at Marietta and Wheeler High Schools Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Gibbons wasn’t concerned with what read on the scoreboard at the sound of each final buzzer.

Instead, Gibbons lasered his focus in on how his team entered and prepared for each of their four games with a large group of players vying for playing time for the first time as a Ram.

“These guys are still learning,” Gibbons said. “We lost a lot of guys last year. These guys are learning how to prepare to play and how to prepare to practice. If we can learn those things, I think we’ll be fine as we get into the season.”

Right now, the only thing we’ve been focused on this summer is preparation. How you prepare to play and how do you prepare to practice. We don’t have any plays and we don’t have any defensive schemes. We’re just worried about how hard we’re going to play and how fast we’re going to play.”

Based on what he has seen thus far, Gibbons said he likes the direction the team is traveling in with the month of June ready to come to a close.

“As many young guys as we have, we’re somewhat ahead of schedule,” Gibbons said. “We have talent. We definitely have talent. We just have to mature a little bit. I think we’re on par with what I have asked to happen in my first 30 days as being the coach. I’m not upset, let’s put it that way.”

Saturday’s performances against both Centennial and Cedar Shoals further proved Gibbons’ outlook.

“I thought today was a step in the right direction for where we’re trying to go,” he said.

With the team ready to break apart for July with the players’ respective AAU seasons firing back up, it will not mark the end of their grind as Rams, Gibbons said.

“June is the end for the high school stuff, but our individual stuff will go into July,” he said. “Guys will be back and forth playing some AAU, but we’ll still get these guys in here in July for individual things and weights. I just want them to know the culture that we’re going to have and just the way that we’re going to do things moving forward.”

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.