Photos by Derrick Mahone
Jonesboro basketball coach Dan Maehlman refuses to call the upcoming season a rebuilding year for his team, which was Region 4-AAAA runner-up in 2012-13.
JONESBORO — Good thing Dan Maehlman isn’t a lazy coach, or else the current offseason for Jonesboro basketball would be enough to drive him nuts.
The Cardinals lost eight seniors from a team that saw three straight deep state tournament runs, including back-to-back berths in the semifinals.
Now with a sophomore heavy roster, few juniors and no seniors, Maehlman finds himself having to shift gears and go back to doing what he loves best about coaching — teaching.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve had a team like this,” Maehlman said. “Because we’ve had some guys who were pretty seasoned over the last three years, I didn’t have to break practice down and break drills down like I am now. I didn’t have to teach them how to take charges, block out and communicate. Defensively, we’re going to start from scratch.
“I’m actually pretty excited about it.”
Maehlman will enter the 2013-14 season with just two holdovers — Deante Mack and Austin Donaldson — from last season’s squad that 23-6, losing 76-69 to Statesboro in the second round of the Class AAAA state tournament.
Tracy Hector, a 6-foot-4 forward transferred over from North Clayton to give Jonesboro some much needed size down low, and ability to “score around the rim” after the departure of Winthrop signee Duby Okeke.
Maehlman singled out Zerrick Cooper, Jordan Griffin and Jordan Qualls as potential difference makers in his sophomore class.
He even went so far as to say that this current crop of youngsters carry a bit of Jonesboro family resemblance to the class of 2013.
“They’re very similar to the senior class that just graduated when those guys were young freshman and rising sophomores,” Maehlman said. “Very similar in terms of the type of kids, their character and how coachable they’re going to be. They’re not really big kids. But just the skill and athletic ability they have looks very familiar.”
With the continued resurgence of Mack, the Cardinals should be potent from the perimeter.
The sharpshooting junior-to-be drained almost 40 percent of his 3-pointers last season. He had five double digit scoring performances during the last six weeks of the season while providing Jonesboro with a spark off the bench.
This summer, Maehlman said that Mack is getting adjusted to being a leader on this team, he is readjusting to being a more patient coach with his green bunch.
Jonesboro went 1-2 earlier this week in a summer league session at Lithia Springs High in Douglas County, defeating Mundy’s Mill and dropping games to McEachern and Langston Hughes.
The team has been competing at Clayton State the majority of the week. While the summer venues are about the same as previous years, Maehlman has employed a different strategy this time around for his young group.
“Whereas in the past I was just as intense during the summer as I was during the year, this summer I took a back seat,” Maehlman said. “The biggest thing for me with the brand new kids is they have to learn how hard they’re going to have to play to be successful on this level.”
Part of that, Maehlman said, is just letting them play without a ton of structure, at least for now — something that disciplinarian in Maehlman doesn’t like to watch.
“We’ve just basically been letting them go out and play without a lot of sets right now,” he said. “And that kind of makes me sick to my stomach. I don’t like disorganized basketball. So I’m not out there screaming hard at them right now. It’s definitely a different approach.”