While high school football playoffs are on the horizon, basketball teams throughout the state have begun their preseason practices.
For the first time in several years, there is reason for optimism at the prospects of the Thomson High Lady Dogs basketball team.
Michael Williams enters his fourth year at the helm and has a strong nucleus of players returning, which includes five seniors on his 11-player roster. Three of these seniors, Nekia McNair, Ashleigh Burnett and Brittany Reid, accounted for a total of 23 points per game last season. Couple that with the return of Wanda Hightower-Lockett and Shanequa Hudson, from a knee injury, these girls should lead the Lady Dogs to a significantly better season than the 7-16 mark they had last year. Three of these seniors have the possibility of playing at the next level, according to coach Williams.
Williams, who enters his eighth year of coaching, served as assistant boys and girls coach for three years at Monticello before coming to Thomson High. He has a passion for the game and actually prefers coaching girls, unlike many male coaches. He finds them more teachable.
Williams, who teaches math at Thomson High, loves to teach. He has turned down multiple offers to become a head boys coach, including the job at Monticello. One thing you notice after spending a short time with Williams is his optimism and that he is a man of faith.
Williams learned the game at the feet of his father, Johnny Williams, who served as head boys coach at both Georgia Military College and Jones County High School. When asked what he learned most from his father, Williams said, "Stick with your philosophy even if things don't immediately go your way, even during conflicts. See the big picture. Have a well-thought- out plan and believe in it."
Williams believes that this is the year that the process of building the Lady Dogs into region contenders pays off. When asked why he has turned down other opportunities, Williams says he wants to be here, build a program, and has seen his athletes buy into his system.
The return of several experienced players has allowed Williams to change his offensive system. While his team was young, he opted to slow-play in a half-court offense. This year, he will be able to play more of an up-tempo game "like the boys" and describes his offense as "organized chaos and running with a purpose."
While much has been said about the overall weakness of the Augusta schools in our region on the gridiron, the same can't be said for basketball. Furthermore, the Lady Golden Hawks of Washington County, who are in our region, are the defending AAA state champions and return their best player, Alisha Gray. Glenn Hills and Butler also are typically powerful teams.
On our side of the subregion, Williams says that the Westside Lady Patriots should be the favorite and have been aided by the transfer of a tall post player from Curtis Baptist.
The Lady Dogs' season begins with a scrimmage against Evans on Nov. 12 and the first regular season game is in the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament here in Thomson on Saturday, Nov. 19. For a $5 admission charge, one dollar of which will go to the American Cancer Society, fans can see four games. Beginning at 3, the Butler girls will play Starr's Mill, followed by the Johnson County girls against Washington-Wilkes. Then, the Lady Dogs will take on Monticello. In the final game, fans can get a look at the Thomson boys as they play Monticello.
Next week we will preview the boys team. Come out and support our basketball teams.