Devils camp out
By By Matthew Nascone
Change can be a good thing, as the Escambia County High School boy's basketball team found out last year. First-year head coach Jerome Antone led the team to a 20-4 record, a share of the regular season area championship and the area tournament championship.
This year the girl's program is following a new leader and that leader is Todd Reynolds.
To continue the success of both programs, Antone and Reynolds took their teams to the summer basketball skills camp at the University of Alabama. The boys traveled to Tuscaloosa June 23-25 and the girls made the trek June 26-28.
Both teams faced the "elite" group of teams while at camp and Antone and Reynolds agreed on the reason for that.
"The only way any team gets better is by facing stronger teams," he said. "I believe we have the talent to succeed this year and I saw some good things at camp."
The Blue Devils faced five schools classified in 6A, two classifications higher than the 4A division ECHS plays their regular season games in.
The Devils came away from camp with a 2-6 record, but Antone said he was not disappointed because none of the games were blowouts.
"We just didn't have the depth on the bench to hang with some of those teams," he said. "But it was a successful camp because I saw our team play solid defense throughout. Even though we lost six games my guys approached me afterwards and told me we would be all right. And that is always good when your players have confidence in themselves."
Reynolds was also proud of how his team competed in Tuscaloosa and they came away with a 7-3 record. But he said summer basketball is not about winning and losing.
"The purpose of going to a camp like that during the summer is to get the players familiar with the schemes and systems I have developed," Reynolds said. "And in that sense it was a very successful camp."
The girls defeated Paul Bryant, Smith's Station, Calhoun, Falkville and a team from Georgia. Their three losses came at the hands of Bishop Moore High out of Orlando, Fla., Columbus High in Mississippi and Bob Jones High from Madison.
"I believe we have solidified a foundation for success this year and I am ecstatic for the season to start," Reynolds said. "The whole goal for summer is to get better and I believe we have done that."
Jasmine Sanders was the player Reynolds named as his player of the camp and West Alabama and Shelton Community College both showed interest in Sanders at the camp.
Ashley Kidd also grabbed the attention of the Shelton scouts at the camp.
On the boy's side of the ball the Blue Devils defeated Tuscaloosa County and S. Valley High, but lost six games including a game in the first round of the end-of-camp tournament.
The "B" team boys also went 2-6 for the camp.
Frank Taylor and Kingston Craft were named outstanding campers on the varsity level and Antone said they contributed to the team in a huge way during the camp.
"Frank and Kingston had a couple of the college coaches at the camp talking about them," Antone said.
And the team effort was great according to Antone.
"I am proud of the hard work and effort these guys put into the camp and I cannot complain at all about the effort level," he said.
A 20-4 season is hard to follow, but Antone said he belies his team will rise to the task at hand. And the Lady Devils are primed to succeed this year according to their head coach. And he has said he has set his sights on traveling to Birmingham for the state tournament.