EDITOR’S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic closed local schools before they could hold their banquets honoring winter sports student-athletes, so coaches have agreed to announce postseason team award recipients here in the newspaper. We’re kicking off our coverage this weekend with Baldwin High School boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling and basketball cheerleading.
Expectations were kind of all over the place for the 2019-20 Baldwin High School boys basketball team.
The Braves had lost a talented senior class to last year’s graduation and the program’s head coach moved one county over. Still, some contributors were returning bolstered by a crop of freshmen to go along with a proven winner as the new head coach.
First-year head Anthony Webb, a Sparta native, took over last summer and did everything he could to get his guys ready for the start of the season last November. The result was a region runner-up finish and a trip into the second round of the 4A state playoffs. The campaign came to a close with Baldwin’s record sitting at 14-10 with a largely made over roster, keeping the team’s streak of consecutive winning seasons going at four.
“When you’ve got a new coach coming in they’ve got to learn you and you’ve got to learn them,” Webb said. “They’ve got to learn my expectations and my coaching style. Being that it was my first year and we were a pretty young team, I think they performed well compared to my expectations.”
Webb and his staff have taken a different approach to postseason team awards, opting not to hand out individual honors beyond the All-Region/All-State/All-County recognitions named by coaches and The Union-Recorder.
“We talked about it as a coaching staff,” Webb said of his reasoning. “During the course of the year, everybody had good games and everybody had bad games. We look at all the players as being valuable because each really understood what they were supposed to do in a given game.”
The Braves player who comes away with the most accolades from the 2019-20 season is William Freeman. The junior guard earned himself a First Team All-Region spot in addition to being named to the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association (GACA) 4A South All-State Team. The final cherry on top for Freeman was his selection as The Union-Recorder’s All-County Player of the Year after he averaged 16.5 points per game.
Joining Freeman in leading the Baldwin boys on the scoresheet was fellow junior Jermyus Simmons who had a similarly strong showing at 14.8 points a night. Simmons also earned First Team All-Region and All-County honors for his hard work on the court.
The next group of honorees is the freshmen who entered and made an immediate impact on the program. Ninth-graders Rudolph Satcher, Shatavious Hogan and Jacobi Nixon all played big roles right out the gate in their own ways. Satcher put up double digits scoring at 11.3 per game while Hogan was a force on the boards and blocking opponents’ shots. Nixon’s contributions did not always show up on the stat sheet, but his hustle earned him an All-Region nomination his first year playing varsity basketball. Satcher and Hogan were both named to the All-County Second Team by the newspaper.
No season comes and goes without any losses, and the Baldwin Braves will be saying goodbye to five seniors — Travis Gordon, Denzell Stanton, Corey Strange, Michael Harden and Rodricus Stewart — all of which will be presented with senior awards for their contributions to the program.
Expectations may have been all over the place for the Braves this past season, but with most of his big contributors returning, Webb is setting his sights higher for 2020-21.
“I’m expecting bigger and better things for next year,” the head coach said. “Most of the teams we faced were veteran teams, but we’ll be a veteran team next year so we’re looking to make great strides… Hopefully, their maturity level steps up. Being young, some of them had never played in the environments we played in, but as the season went on everybody learned their roles and started trusting one another more.”