By Gene Phelps
Special to the Gazette
High school girls and boys basketball teams in Union County will be busy next month playing camp and tournament games.
Ingomar and Myrtle are two of the schools who will host summer camps and tournament play.
Ingomar boys coach Jonathan Ashley uses June games to evaluate players.
“I’ve always enjoyed it,” he said. “It puts your players in tough situations … like playing back to back games. It creates a mental toughness. All of the players will get a chance to play. We’ll see which ones can and which ones can’t.”
Ashley recalled finding an upcoming eighth grader one summer who helped the Falcons for five seasons. That player was Kelton Hall, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 3,000-plus points.
“Kelton was coming out of the seventh grade,” Ashley said. “We were playing against a 6-8 kid from Grenada and put Kelton against him. He held his own because he didn’t know any better. I thought ‘He’ll be able to help us this year in high school.’ ’’
Ashley uses summer play to find those seventh, eighth and ninth players off the bench. Last year those players were Nathan Weeden, Tyson Smithey and 6-5 Nyhiem Jones.
“This year we’ll be looking for the same thing,” Ashley said. “Not having Zach Shugars out there, it’s a blow. Every minute Zach would have played some other guys will get that opportunity. We’re going to find out this summer against quality competition. They can’t look to Zach to do it.”
Shugars, an upcoming junior forward/guard and Daily Journal All-Area selection, had surgery earlier this spring to repair a torn ACL. He’s expected to return to the lineup this season, but will miss summer drills.
“I’m confident Zach will be back,” Ashley said. “He’s got a good attitude and he’s a hard worker.”
Ingomar and Baldwyn will host a pool-play format tournament the week of June 27, with an elimination round and finals being played at Ingomar.
BUSY, BUSY TIME
Myrtle boys coach Rob Browning says June basketball is crucial now that the Hawks have football.
“Our June is going to be important,” he said. “We’re going to be busy, really busy working with them before football starts. We have open gym for them in July for them to come in and shoot.
“We’ll remind them of offensive things, but we’ll focus on defense this summer.”
Hawks point guard Elijah Ingram could miss the summer drills with an injury. “He’s got more minutes than anybody we have coming back. I know what he can do,” Browning said.
On the girls side, Lady Hawks coach Chris Greer says he’s cutting back on summer work.
“We’re not playing as much as we have,” he said. “We’re playing about two weeks. I think the kids need their summer.”
• Ingomar’s girls, who won three of the last four 2A state championships, look to replace stars Gara Beth Self and Lauren Thompson. Self is expected to sign with D1 Louisiana-Monroe while Thompson has signed with Mississippi College.
• East Union has a new girls coach, Chase Brown, who replaced Charlie Porch.
• West Union girls coach J.C. Hayles has lined up some summer work/scrimmages against his father’s (Shane Hayles) Nettleton team.