By Jeffery Armstrong
The Mt. Zion Bulldogs boys basketball team will know where they stand from the very beginning of their season.
In the team's annual tipoff tournament, scheduled to start Saturday, Nov. 20, one of the teams the Bulldogs will play is the South Cobb Eagles, ranked third in the Class AAAAA preseason basketball coaches poll.
"South Cobb's going to be one of the top teams in the state, so we'll be pushed right off the bat," said Mt. Zion head coach Rick Moore.
Moore hopes his team will push back this season. The Bulldogs didn't fare well in 2003, going 9-16 and losing to the Morrow Mustangs in the Region 2-AAAAA play-in game.
Now Mt. Zion finds itself in Region 5-AAAA, where it will face pretty good teams including Mays, North Clayton, Stone Mountain and others. Moore believes his team will play better than last year because they worked hard in the summer months.
"We were extremely competitive this summer. I was very pleased with our work during that time," said Moore. "We just have to have confidence in our ability this year. I like our depth this year also."
Moore would like his team to shoot their free throws at a better clip this year; it hurt them a bit last season. He constantly tells his team that former Bulldogs standout Karl Hollingsworth shot 800 free throws in his four-year high school career.
"Good foul shooting is always important. I tell the guys that they have to capitalize on moments when they're fouled," he said.
Moore, in his 16th season as head coach, said that no matter what goes on with this year's team, he will enjoy helping them become better players.
"I really like this group ? they're real coachable," he said. "What's even better is that they like each other."
Mt. Zion will feature returning starters Mikal Bennett and Derek Slaughter, who is fresh from the Bulldogs state playoff football team. Other key players for Mt. Zion include Takarus Deas, Montavious Jackson, Demarcus Smith, Trey Zorns, Valin Leggett, Willie Banks and Donnie Campbell.