The Norcross Blue Devils posted an 11-3 regular season record in Region 7-AAAAA play last year, but an early exit in the state playoffs led to head coach Jesse McMillan shaking up the offseason.
"For the first time in over 10 years, we are not participating in traditional team camps," said McMillan. "The reasoning was that we felt our players were not getting the individual instruction they needed. They were playing too many games during the high school and AAU seasons and were not being given the opportunity to improve their skill level."
The Blue Devils did not play any team camp games last month. Instead, the Norcross coaches created the "2012 Grind" to help the players prepare for 2012-13.
"Our '2012 Grind' consists of two-hour sessions of skill work and strength training," said McMillan. "We go Monday through Thursday in the evenings at Norcross. We have had a strong group of high school, college and professional players participating."
McMillan feels the 2012 Grind has gone very well and will help instill a renewed focus on winning.
"Even though we were very young last season, we were disappointed in how our season played out," said McMillan. "It was the first season in 10 years that we did not advance to at least the second round of the state playoffs."
Despite a stellar 11-3 region record, the Blue Devils were just 16-13 overall and the team lost its final three games of the year, two in the region tournament and a 64-54 decision to Berkmar in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Rising seniors Harold Givens and Brandon Goodwin both return for McMillan, and the duo could be getting a new presence down low in Lorenzo Carter. The rising junior has moved into the Norcross district after helping Whitefield Academy to the Class A title last season. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Carter averaged 9.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks for Whitefield Academy as a sophomore.
Those three players plus the additional returning and rising talent at Norcross could have the Blue Devils in the hunt for the program's fifth title since 2006.
"If you want different results (from a year ago), you have to evaluate and change your approach toward things and everyone in our program is committed and buying in," said McMillan. "Someone will be the first AAAAAA state champion and we expect to make a serious run at it."