George Walton will be breaking in its third head boys basketball coach in five seasons when it tips off the new season Nov. 24 against Loganville.
The previous two presided over a program that’s been on a downward trajectory since reaching the third round of state in 2011. Since then, the Bulldogs have not made it out of the region or even finished with a winning record. In all but one of those year, they failed to reach double-digits in victories.
There was a time when the GWA boys were consistent winners. Hoping to return to those days, the school hired someone who was a part of some of the Bulldogs best teams.
Matt Reynolds, GWA Class of 2009, started attending GWA in fifth grade, spent four years on the varsity team and has coached at the school in some capacity since he was a junior at the University of Georgia.
“I want to build a winning culture,” Reynolds said. “We used to have that, where you expected to win.”
The first-year, first-time head coach thinks he has a group of players who can begin to lay the foundation.
Leading the team from the backcourt will be a pair of hard-luck guards. Kennedy Johnson started last season at point guard before going down with a knee injury just minutes into the season opener and never returning. Meanwhile, Noah Hicks broke a finger and was medically released to play just three weeks ago.
If they can stay healthy, they could comprise one of the Bulldogs most formidable guard combos since Reynolds combined with Bart Benton back in the day.
“It’s like having two coaches on the floor with those guys out there,” Reynolds said.
Joining them up front will be Reese Gelsthorpe.
“We probably won’t have a traditional point guard,” Reynolds said. “All three of those guys are capable of bringing the ball up and running the offense.”
The front court isn’t as settled and could feature any number of combinations. David Lalaian returns at post, but he could be late in starting the season while finishing out football.
Will Herren, a 6-foot wing who saw several starts last fall, and Chase Jocelyn, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, could get the starting nod at the forward spots.
“This group is young and inexperienced,” Reynolds said. “But we’ve got a strong junior class, which is good because it gives us at least two years with those guys.”
The Bulldogs will also have more time this year to prepare for a run at the postseason. When GHSA reclassified the regions for this year, they did away with the power ratings system for qualifying the postseason, which factored in every game including non-region.
Starting this year, only region games county toward the playoffs. With just six teams in Region 8-A private, the odds are better GWA can get back in.