COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Georgia Highlands men looking for consistence early
The way the Georgia Highlands Chargers ended last season informed how they began this season, but it is going to be a nearly new cast of characters who help determine how the story goes.
The junior college men’s basketball team split its season-opening games last weekend at Chipola College in Florida and plays its first home games this weekend as part of the annual Dana Davis Classic.
The No. 22 Chargers have just one returning player in redshirt sophomore Khalyl Waters but have some untapped talent that is already providing a strong resource for head coach Phil Gaffney and his staff to go to on a regular basis.
“Usually you’ll see a junior college team with five or six players back each year, but we get a lot of Division I transfers so we get them here and help them to move on,” Gaffney said. “As far as what our best rotations are, we are still figuring it out. You just throw spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks.”
Georgia Highlands had its postseason cut short in March when they dropped a 103-99 game to South Georgia Tech in the GCAA semifinals, ultimately denying them a trip to their fourth straight NJCAA national tournament.
“Obviously we were very upset not going to the national tournament after three straight years. We were playing at home and were the number one seed for the conference tournament,” Gaffney said.
“You play a team a third time and lose to them after being up 20 is something you can’t do. So these first few games are important to set the foundation for a good record and make sure we can compete for at least an at-large bid if it comes down to that.”
After opening the season with an 86-79 win over Enterprise State, the Chargers gave Miami Dade College a test, leading almost the whole game amid some tough circumstances before coming up short 106-102.
Waters led the team with a career-high 32 points in the loss, but Georgia Highlands hit only 3 out of 24 3-pointers and missed uncontested layups, according to Gaffney.
“It was one of those bizarre things,” he said. “Hopefully that will never happen again. I think what we learned is we’ve got to become better shooters, and everyone is new except for one guy. We’ve got to mesh together.”
Waters, from Douglasville, is the lone member of this year’s squad who had playing time last year. Gaffney said they expect him to be a consistent presence on the team.
“He has matured,” Gaffney said. “He has expanded his jump shot. He used to be just a 6-foot-6 athlete, but he can handle the ball better and shoot much better.”
Cahiem Brown is a 6-4 guard from Abraham Lincoln High School out of Brooklyn, New York, and redshirted last season. In his first collegiate game last Friday he had 29 points off the bench against Enterprise State and then added 24 against Miami Dade the next night.
“He knows our system just like Khalyl even though Khalyl played 30 games last season,” Gaffney said. “That helps with both of our guys, and they will be leaders for us this year.”
The Chargers open their home schedule tonight against Motlow State at 8 p.m. after the University of South Carolina Salkerhatchie takes on Walters State at 6 p.m.
On Saturday, Georgia Highlands plays Walters State at 3 p.m. after USC Salkerhatchie and Motlow State at 1 p.m.