Gone are four of the starters who led the Wolfpack to their title, including Kenny Gaines, the 2011-12 Marietta Daily Journal/Cobb County Player of the Year and Parade All-American now at Georgia.
But the most noticeable body missing may not be on the court.
Veteran coach Tyrone Johnson took a leave of absence from coaching after the 2011-12 season. While he remains on staff at Whitefield in an administrative role, the coaching duties have been passed to his longtime assistant, Eddie James.
It’s not known when — or if — Johnson might return, but, in the meantime, James said he is going to make the most of the opportunity that has been given to him.
He also didn’t plan on changing much. After all, the program won three state titles during a 10-year period with James assisting Johnson.
“I was Tyrone’s assistant all those years,” James said. “In some instances, you look forward to the opportunity to have a chance, but you’ve kind of got to wait until the time presents itself. And, since it has, I’m ready.”
The Wolfpack’s cupboard isn’t totally bare. They return starting forward Eric Lockett, an all-state player, as well as four reserves who will play more prominent roles this season.
“We will depend a lot on their know-how, because they are experienced young men,” James said. “They are men that we have trained, and we feel are ready to step up and continue the Whitefield tradition of playing basketball the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Aside from Lockett, junior center Everett Pollard and wing Brandon Miles, there are question marks in the starting lineup. James said some eligibility issues are being sorted out, while, in another case, multiple players are competing from one spot.
“We’ve probably got three newcomers — Miles, Norman Harris, Jesse Byrd — who are going to make an impact,” said James, who added that the team’s speed will be one of its assets.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that will play a lot of positions, so we will be pretty versatile as far as quickness and ball-handling go. I think that will be the strength of the team.”
One thing James will be changing is the way the team thinks. With fewer players who have the ability to outmatch their opponent, the coach said the players need to be smarter.
“We won’t outman people,” James said. “We need to think more cerebral and make that our advantage.”
This also means changing the way that his players think. He wants to make them believe the value of each possession and understand what it is like to be part of a winning program.
“We are working on scoring every chance you get and not taking a break,” said James. “It’s a pretty big task.”