Basketball games are played for keeps starting in November but it’s what gets done in the summer months which can make the difference between winning and losing. Evidence of that was on display earlier this past Monday and Tuesday at Bryan County High School. Actually, it was also on display at the Bryan County Middle School and Bryan County Elementary, too.
The occasion was a basketball extravaganza started by Redskins Coach Mario Mincey 15 years ago.
What originated with seven teams getting together to get in some practice games has evolved into the Summer Jam which this year featured 28 teams playing non-stop at three gyms beginning at 9:30 a.m. and concluding at the dinner hour.
When it was all over 27 games had been played on Monday and another 26 on Tuesday. Bryan County and Richmond Hill teams played eight games each including one against one another. Not all schools were on hand both days but most were.
“This thing has really grown,” Mincey said. “This year we had a waiting list of teams wanting to come and play. It gives these teams a chance to play against other teams they won’t see during the regular season. Baldwin County, for example, would never play Brunswick or Statesboro.
“We’ve got 7A teams (Richmond Hill, Camden County) playing against Class A teams. This gives the Class A teams a chance to see how they stack up against bigger schools. A lot of these kids learn they can play and hold their own against the big schools.
“It’s a big confidence boost for a lot of them because they’re playing against players who have already committed to play in college and it gives them some exposure.”
There were at least five college coaches in the stands each day. For those who can’t be there in person Mincey streams the games.
There’s plenty of action and the competition is real. No players on the floor were going through the motions as Richmond Hlll discovered, for example, when it played Bryan County. The Redskins took it to their county rivals and while no stats are kept Bryan County won handily.
While Wildcats Coach Sarah Jones wants to win as badly as the next person, she also understands these summer games play a huge role in getting her team prepared for the regular season which is still months away.
“One of the biggest things is your rising freshmen have a chance to come in and learn the program and have the opportunity to get out and compete against better competition,” Jones said. “You learn from game to game. “As a team you learn about developing chemistry. You start building relationships,” Jones said. “We’ll play eight games total here and then we’re going to a camp at Georgia Southern for three days. “What we do in the summer takes us into the off-season. Once school starts, we can’t practice until October which means there’s a lot we would have to put in in a short period of time before the season starts.”
Richmond Hill and Bryan County both had their junior varsity teams playing and in Mincey’s case he had three rising eighth graders playing with his jayvees.
“One of the great things about this is you don’t have to travel so much to play,” Mincey said. “You get a chance to play in a local environment. We started as a one-day event and now we could do three days.”
Mincey keeps his team busy. The Redskins had played seven games, including four at Statesboro last Saturday, before Monday.
Jones perhaps summed it up best for those participating.
“It’s always a good time when you’re in the gym,” Jones said. “You get to go and have a play day.”