Basketball season traditionally involves "sweater weather," with games taking place between November and March, but Al Young's squad is in gear in the midst of summer's sweatiest stretch.
Young, head coach of North Augusta High School's girls program, is in the position of guiding a team with three straight state championships to its credit. Tyliah Burns, J'Mani Ingram, Kiana Lee and P'eris Smith are among the most prominent names likely to be on Young's 2019-20 roster.
"We've just got to to continue working and getting our skills better," the coach said. "I'm just so fortunate and so happy I have young girls willing to come in and do the work, and I'm impressed with their attendance and with how hard they've worked all summer.
The focus, he said, is mainly on fundamentals – dribbling and shooting. "We've been spending a lot of time on offense and just trying to improve those skills, and certainly we believe that the fundamentals are the foundation to everything that we do. We just try to spend a lot of time on that while we do have time and work with those kinds of things."
Young's references to "dribbling and shooting," however, go several steps beyond the basics, as shown when he challenges his players to handle such tasks as dribbling two basketballs at a time, possibly at different heights and occasionally behind their backs or between their legs.
The turnout for voluntary summer workouts has been "pretty good," he confirmed, adding that the past few years of team success have made things easier for Young to point out the key elements involved in success: "working hard, showing enthusiasm, and reaching down and trying to help the young girls come along."
The team, he said, is in gear this week and will then get some time off until school starts. At that point, the conditioning program will have its formal start, to help the players become stronger and quicker.
"We've had about 25 girls pretty consistent all summer," he said, referring to participation in recent team activities. "It helps to have the numbers. You've got a little more to choose from. We've got young girls in the program, so they get the chance to grow and watch the older girls do their thing, so it's all good."