Photo by Christine Troyke
A month hadn't passed since the Greater Atlanta Christian boys basketball team celebrated another Class AA state title in Macon and Eddie Martin's focus completed shifted to next season.
The calls and faxes and emails began in December and by the end of March, GAC knew its full schedule for the coming season, including a trip to Bristol, Tenn., and tournaments at North Gwinnett and Wheeler. Plus, the Spartans host their own event this year.
"We are in a position where we feel like we want to pushed every night," the GAC coach said. "I look at what some of the college programs do, playing teams that Dick Vitale calls cupcakes. We don't want to do that."
The schedule makes that clear. The Spartans open the year in North Gwinnett's Jared Cook Classic, facing Class AAAAA playoff teams from a season ago and they follow that with the Nike Explosion event at Wheeler, host their own Shootout and attend the national Arby's Classic tournament.
All before the calendar turns to January.
And they aren't the only ones.
Gwinnett's other defending champions, Norcross from Class AAAAA, mirror the same ambitious schedule as GAC. The philosophy all comes from Martin, who coached at Norcross before moving over to GAC and had the current Blue Devils head coach Jesse McMillan on his staff. And the results can't be argued with. A Martin-led team has won a state title in Georgia five of the past six years.
"We try to maximize our schedule," McMillan said. "The first thing we want to make sure is that every non-conference game has got to be a challenge for us."
The Blue Devils schedule sends them to Ohio and South Carolina for tournaments and in Georgia, they host the annual Mariott Invitational, will play in the GAC Shootout and Shiloh's New York vs. Atlanta Shootout. The fields for every event are full yet, but the Blue Devils will definitely face defending North Carolina Class AAAA champions, West Charlotte.
Interstate competition and travel grow each year with more high school teams leaving home and the state. Both Martin and McMillan like the travel aspect, especially early in the season.
"It's always good to get the guys isolated and force them to be around their teammates," McMillan said. "It really, really brings the team closer and that bond build and builds over the season.
"The feel really comfortable with the guys they have on their team."