“I expect us to win a lot of ball games and compete in a lot of ball games, especially with the group we have coming back,” Pollard said. “So our leading scorer, Trent McClure, is coming back, who is also our floor leader. We’ve got Josh Johnson coming back, Rusty Clark, who started some last year. Then Taylor Shumake and Nick Forrister are two guys that can really put it in the hoop. So our goal is to push up and play and try to score some baskets.”
The Blue Devils open the 2012-13 campaign at Excel Christian on Saturday in a 5 p.m. contest. And, as usual, Pollard is trying to work his guys from the gridiron to the court in a small window of time. And while it’s always an uphill battle those first few weeks of practice, Pollard said having that experience this season has helped quite a bit.
“It’s huge. This is not the first time for any of them. They’ve all been there before. You’re looking at seven guys who pretty much all played last year. So the adversity we faced — we lost some close games — this year I hope to be on the other side of those close games with the experience,” Pollard said. “The kids know what we want from them in practice and they know what we expect from them in the game. A lot of times, I don’t have to call plays because they’ve been doing it for so long, they know what we’re going to do. And that’s going to come in handy.”
McClure averaged 10.4 points per game, with two assists and two steals per outing, last season as a sophomore running the Blue Devil offense, while senior Josh Johnson (8.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg) brings plenty of athleticism as a 6-3 wing. Rounding out the returning players are senior guards Rusty Clark and Sean Stassie and junior guards Taylor Shumake and Nick Forrister.
Bremen graduated 6-foot-4 center Nick Hyatt (10.6 ppg, 10.0 rpg), who is now playing at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain.
It is somewhat of a mixed bag for the Blue Devils in moving up to Class AA and into Region 5. While they lose the Class A private school powers such as North Cobb Christian and Mt. Paran from the region, they gain Manchester and Jordan, a pair of teams that reached the state semifinals in Class AA last season, with Manchester falling in the finals.
The region will be sub-divided, with Bremen on the 5B-AA side with local rivals Bowdon, Temple and Heard County. On the other side are the Columbus-area schools — Jordan, Manchester, Kendrick, Spencer and Chattahoochee County.
Each team will play one crossover game and then play every team in the sub-region twice, though only one of the 5B-AA games will count toward the region standings.
“Moving up is definitely going to be some challenges. Two of the teams in this region were in the final four last year for the state playoffs. So it’s going to be interesting to see how these seniors face adversity. This is their last go at it. I think if we play together as a team, we can be successful,” Pollard said.
Following Saturday’s opener, the Blue Devils play host to Dade County and Gordon Lee next Friday and Saturday, respectively, and then take on Temple, Mt. Zion, Gordon Lee again and Haralson County before the holiday tournament season begins. Bremen is competing in both the Carroll County (Dec. 20-22) and Haralson County (Dec. 27-29) tournaments before starting the region schedule after the new year.
“Before Christmas, you try to play as many people as you can and see what your best five is going to be. You just want to get everybody’s legs back under them,” Pollard said. “We’ve got some big games early. We play Haralson County before Christmas and we’re in their tournament. We’ve got Temple before Christmas, which is a huge rival game. So it is what it is — ready or not, we’ve got to go out and compete.”