The 2009-10 boys' varsity basketball season at Thomson High School might be more special than players and coaches could ever imagine.
There are several reasons.
Perhaps one of them is because the Bulldogs have a balanced group of players in terms of talent, says Thomson head coach Michael Thomas, whose team finished fourth in the Region 3-AAA tournament behind Washington County, Liberty County and Burke County last season. Thomson made the state playoffs, but lost in the first round to South Atlanta, the eventual Class AAA state champions.
"Even though we lost in the first round of the state playoffs last season, it was still a good experience to play a team that became state champions," said coach Thomas during an interview about the upcoming season last week. "We know that we came up short against them, but we learned what we must do to get to that sort of level. I think that was very important for our players to see."
As has been the goal since he first became head coach at Thomson in 1982, coach Thomas would love nothing better than to see his team win a state championship. It's something that has eluded him all these years. But it's not something he dwells on.
"I've always wanted a team to go all the way," said coach Thomas, who has received through his coaching career several coach of the year honors from the Georgia High School Association. "That's been the goal since I first came here. It's still the goal now."
With more than 450 victories during his prep basketball coaching career, coach Thomas is hoping that maybe this is the year that the players can put it all together and win the biggest state title of them all.
"That would be great, but right now I'm more concerned about the regular season starting up," said coach Thomas.
Several of the players on this year's team are very close in terms of talent, he explained.
"We don't have just one or two players that can score," said coach Thomas. "We have several starting players and reserve players who can score, too and play good defense."
One of the returning players includes sophomore rising star Jonathon Atkins, a 6-foot-4 center, who will be back as a starter for a second year.
"We've just got to get him out of a football mode and into a basketball mode," said coach Thomas.
"He'll be ready before long to play basketball."
The longtime basketball coach is most impressed with Atkins' skills on the court.
"He could be baby Shaq of the CSRA -- not just good, but dominant," said coach Thomas. "He's capable of being a great high school basketball player."
Senior guard Deandre Williams also will be an asset for the Bulldogs this season.
"He's just a natural shooter and is very consistent from the outside," said coach Thomas, noting Williams played behind Richard Johnson last season. Johnson is now playing college basketball. "Defensively, Williams is very quick."
Senior forward Rashod Berry also will be heavily counted on this season.
"He's a good versatile low-post player and he has exceptionally good court awareness," said coach Thomas.
Another sophomore, Ronkeem Sallywhite, also looks to be a promising player for the Bulldogs this season.
Sallywhite, a 5-foot-10 guard, "is a solid a basketball player as we've got on the team," said coach Thomas. "He has no weaknesses when it comes to any aspect of the game."
The head coach said Sallywhite has the potential to become "a very good basketball player. He has excellent work habits at practice and is only going to become better the more he plays."
Coach Thomas also is fortunate this season because he is blessed with several talented underclassmen. They include Antonio Coleman, a sophomore guard; Jamonte Beard, a 6-foot-3 freshman guard; Dwayne Williams, a sophomore guard; and Biquavious Sturgis, 6-foot-3 sophomore guard.
"The only problem with them is that they haven't been in the fire," added coach Thomas. "Several of them could help us this season. Right now, it just depends on how quick they pick up our system."
Other players on this year's varsity team include: Ronald Jackson, Joshua Daniels, Jimmy Jones, Rodman Ramsey, Jacoby Crawford, Mikel Paschal, Ivery McNair and Lavance Yarbrough.
Coach Thomas and his staff are busy these days attempting to put together a team that can perform cohesively on the court.
"If we are able to do that, this could be a very special season for us," said coach Thomas.