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GIRLS BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW: Nelson new coach for Lady Trojans

Gaylesville’s Shonda Epps shoots a free throw last year against Cedar Bluff in the Cherokee County Tournament. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

GAYLESVILLE – Jeff Nelson is taking a second basketball coaching tour of duty at Gaylesville beginning this season, only this time it’s with the Lady Trojans.

Nelson, who once coached the Trojan boys, took over the girls program this past summer. Although he’s in his first season coaching the Lady Trojans, he’s no stranger to coaching girls basketball. He’s also coached at Summerville Middle School in Georgia in the 1990s.

“It’s been a few years,” he said. “But I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

Nelson said he’s just trying to develop a rhythm with the Lady Trojans. Taking over late in the summer, he was just getting to “know them as players.” He feels he’s got seven starters in this season’s lineup, but building depth is something they’re working on. However, he feels the key inside-outside pieces are there in seniors Shonda Epps and Delaney Coker.

“Shonda and Delaney have played a lot of basketball. One of our goals is to get the ball to Shonda and get her posted up. She is a vocal leader. We’re excited to have her. Delaney has played a lot of ball also. She’s been running point the past couple of years and handling the ball a lot.”

Much of the remaining Lady Trojan “starters” are going to be interchangeable.

“Gracie (Dawson) is going to be one that’s going to be a multi-use player, inside-outside, wherever we need her. Emma Givens is also going to be running at one of our guards. I’m excited to have a couple of ball handlers. Aubrie Peek is also a versatile player inside and outside. She can be a scorer at times. We’ve got Shonda and Sydney Smith on the inside, and I’ve got Jadyn Dobbins, who’s going to be multi-purpose.

“If we’re able to get the ball inside to Shonda, we’re going to have to have some people who are going to have to pop a little bit from the outside too. That’s what I’ve talked to some of them about. You’re going to have to be ready to take a shot. If you’re open for a shot, take your shot. I have a lot of confidence in several of the players.”

Epps feels the Lady Trojans are responding to what Nelson is teaching them so far.

“I think it’s going pretty good,” she said. “There’s definitely a lot more discipline than what we’ve had in the past. Practice is definitely a lot more exciting now that everybody acts like they actually want to be there. They’re enjoying themselves. I feel like we’re getting a lot more done this year.

“I feel like when there’s competition involved, it pushes everybody to actually play as hard as they can (in games) and in practice. We do a lot of 3-on-2, 2-on-1s. It’s conditioning and shooting and trying to get the ball up and down the floor.”

Defensively, Nelson said, the Lady Trojans are going to have to box out their opponents and limit them to one shot.

“We’re probably going to be playing a lot of zone because we don’t have a lot of depth,” he said. “We’re going to have to make sure we’re disciplined and stay in our zones.”

Gaylesville opens the 2022-23 season Tuesday night at Gaston. The Lady Trojans’ first home game is Friday against Collinsville. They compete in the Class 1A, Area 12 along with Cedar Bluff, Coosa Christian, Jacksonville Christian and Spring Garden.

“I want people to say we competed for four quarters, and they’re fun to watch because we’re going to compete for the whole ball game. That’s the impression I want people to come away with,” Nelson said.

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