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PREP BASKETBALL: Jonesboro coach Dan Maehlman ‘excited’ about prospects of new-look Cardinals

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After four years of unprecedented success, Jonesboro boys basketball coach, Dan Maehlman doesn’t expect much drop off even with a new cast of potential stars. (File Photo)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Gabriel Stovall

JONESBORO, Ga. — Quick, give the name of 10 high school basketball programs who would be vocally unhappy with a Sweet 16 state playoff appearance.

Okay, five?

Perhaps three?

Well, even if you struggle with those numbers, there’s definitely one boys hoops program in Clayton County that you can point to — Jonesboro.

Despite a 23-6 overall mark during the 2016-17 season, and a perfect 16-0 record in Region 4-AAAAAA, Jonesboro coach, Dan Maehlman says the Cardinals’ 61-56 loss to Allatoona in the state tournament’s second round still sticks hard in the team’s collective craw.

“Last year was a disappointment to us,” Maehlman said when he took the podium Wednesday during Clayton County’s basketball media day. “To the end the season there, it was awful. It was terrible for us. Maybe it’s because we’d been spoiled by playing for state championships the previous three years.”

Indeed, the Cardinals enjoyed an embarrassment of riches over a four year stretch that brought four region crowns, three consecutive state championship game appearances, two straight Class AAAA titles and a high school McDonald’s All-American in current Florida State freshman, M.J. Walker, to boot.

Maehlman acknowledged the dichotomy of missing a once-in-a-coaching-career player like Walker and the excitement of bringing back a glut of potential standouts for this coming season who are back from injury.

“It’s hard to explain what it means to lose a player like M.J.,” Maehlman said. “And I’m not just talking about what it means to the team, but also what it means to the program. Everything he was to us, you just can’t replace that. But as far as the team we’ve got coming back, I think I’m more excited about this year than I’ve been in a long time.”

Three of those players — seniors Jamari Smith, Jamari Mosley and Miles Black —  were in tow with Maehlman as he spoke about the prospects of the 2017-18 season at Media Day. Smith missed most of last season after suffering a concussion early on, while Mosley tore his meniscus and Black went down with a season ending injury six games into the season while averaging 23 points per game.

That’s not to mention guys like point guard Dakota Leffew who broke his wrist, but should return healthy to help push a rebuilt Jonesboro backcourt and junior Brandon Walker who saw quality minutes last year as a sophomore.

In all, Maehlman said he feels like he has a group of guys hungry and prepared to push the Cardinals to another deep postseason run.

“I tell you, we’ve got 18 to 19 guys on this team who are ready to get out there during 7 a.m. workouts and compete hard for that Jonesboro name across their chest,” he said. “This group, many of these kids, they just get along with each other. They’ve worked hard over the summer, and the way I think they’re all going to get out and compete this season, it definitely excites me. We haven’t had that around here in a long time.”

There will be no easing into things, either, win the season kicks off in earnest in a couple of weeks. The first test for the new-look Cardinals will be another team trying to bounce back from championship glory with fresh faces.

“We’re excited to open up this year with the defending state champs in Langston Hughes,” Maehlman said. “I think it’ll give us a chance, right off, to see exactly where we stand. I think it’ll ensure that we’ll be fired up to play.”

 

 

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