Anchored by six seniors and five returnees, the Thomson High School Bulldogs have begun their 2008-09 basketball season.
The season got underway last Friday night with Thomson traveling to Madison to take on Morgan County in a battle of the best Bulldogs' round ball team.
The Thomson Bulldogs, under Head Coach Michael Thomas have set their goals high this season - as high as a team can go.
"They want to win a state championship," Coach Thomas said during a pre-season interview last Wednesday. "That's what they have said they want to do. They've set their sights high. We'll just have to wait and see."
Coach Thomas pointed out that he doesn't think it's out of the realm of possibility, but a lot of things must come together in order for them to accomplish a state basketball title.
This season, the Thomson team finds itself in a new region, made up of a number of better than decent basketball teams. Some of those teams include Liberty County, Baldwin, West Laurens, Burke County, Richmond Hill and Washington County.
"When you start playing in a new region, you're never quite sure how it's going to play out," Coach Thomas said. "I think we'll be able to hold our own. There are a lot of unknowns right now. It's all kind of up in the air - an element of unknowns."
What is certain this season is that Thomson will be playing several of their region games back-to-back on weekends. The first such region games come early in the season. On Friday, Dec. 19, Thomson will host Richmond Hill before hitting the road on Saturday, Dec. 20 to play Liberty County.
Thomson will be led by a six-senior squad this season. They include Marvin Ramsey, 5-11; Richard Johnson, 5-8; Brandon Turman, 6-0; Dexter Sneed, 5-10; Radney Tutt, 6-2; and Darius Eubanks, 6-2.
Other players on the team include: Rankeem Sallywhite, a freshman; Antonio Coleman, a freshman; DeAndre Williams, a junior; Jonathan Atkins, a freshman; LaVance Yarborough, a sophomore; and Rashod Berry, a junior.
"We're looking pretty decent right now," Coach Thomas said, noting that the Bulldogs will be led by RonKeem Sallywhite at point guard. "We have several experienced players returning this season and we have some young ones, too."
Another one of the younger players expected to help the Bulldogs a lot this season, especially in the areas of rebounding and shot-blocking will be LaVance Yarborough, the tallest player on the team at 6-5, who will play center. Rashod Berry, who is 6-2, meanwhile, will double at that position from his usual forward position.
As for Yarborough, he's the tallest player to come along at Thomson since the playing days of Vonteego Cummings, who now is a professional basketball player in the European League.
"It's been a long time since we've had a player as tall as he is," Coach Thomas said. "We're hoping he's going to help us a lot in terms of rebounding and blocked shots."
Coach Thomas explained that he has been most impressed by the shooting abilities of DeAndre Williams.
"He's been shooting the ball pretty good in practices," Coach Thomas said.
Five of the seniors on the team have just completed the football season. Nevertheless, all of them are showing signs of improvement with each practice, Coach Thomas said. "They're getting better and better. They just need to continue to work on their timing. It will come."
The veteran coach who has guided the Bulldogs since 1982 said this year's team needs to establish their own identity.
"This team is well-rounded," Coach Thomas said. "They are talented and they adapt well to different situations.
Coach Thomas believes that teams in the region that have to adjust a lot won't fair well this season. "They want have time to tinker with different adjustments," he added.
On the other hand, teams, like Thomson, that focus primarily on playing sound defense and offense will fair better, he believes.
"We need to do what we do well and let the chips fall where they may," Coach Thomas said.