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When basketball season tips off next week, Newton-Conover High School enters brand new territory with two new head coaches.
Jonathan Tharpe, who coached the Lady Red Devils for three seasons, takes over the boys program from former coach Mark Carter.
âI think the biggest thing is we are continuing to build the program,â Tharpe said. âThe same type of philosophies and things we did with the girls team I am trying to instill with the guys.â
The Red Devils were 13-11 overall and 9-5 in conference play last year, making it to the first round of the playoffs.
This yearâs squad is made up of two freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors and six seniors. Only one of six veteran players returns.
Despite that hurdle, Tharpe likes his growing team.
âThere is a lot of talent with these guys,â he said. âThere is a lot of young talent. The biggest thing for all of them, from freshman to seniors, is seeing how all that hard work pays off. No matter how talented you are, the harder you work, the better the team will be.â
Senior Tevin McGill likes his teamâs chemistry.
âWeâre pretty young, but I feel like what coach has planned for us will get us set up for this year and years to come,â McGill said. âI feel like we are going to be pretty good this season.â
Many Red Devils said having Tharpe as their coach is what they always wanted.
âWe always saw how good he was with the girls,â said junior Kevin Cline. âThereâs a big difference here now. Weâre working and getting after it. We used to look at Newton-Conover basketball as something just to do to keep in shape. Now, we take it serious. Weâre ready to work.â
Joshuwell McCombs, who was the N-C JV player of the year, said heâs seen players go to a new level.
âThere is a lot of leadership on this team,â he said. âWe have people stepping up. Last year, no one stepped up. There is more teamwork this year. Last year, there were a lot of individuals.â
Lady Red Devils try to continue streak
Ike Williams, a former Hickory High School assistant coach and Statesville High School associate head coach, takes over for Tharpe as N-C girls coach.
He guides a program that went 72-17 under Tharpe, including back-to-back Western Regional title game appearances.
âThe expectations are still the same for us to come and perform well,â Williams said. âThe goals havenât been lowered. Our goal every year is to win state. In fact, I want to push the bar higher and see if this program can be nationally ranked. These are big shoes to fill, but I believe we can do it.â
The transition has been easy for Williams, who coached many of the current N-C players on the AAU Carolina Express and Carolina Pacers.
âAs far as getting familiar with the players, itâs been very easy,â he said. âI knew quite a few of them. They know what to expect from me. Itâs been an easier transition for me than them.â
Several Lady Red Devils were glad to already know the man that ended up as their new coach.
âIt wasnât as bad of a transition as I thought it would be,â said post player Kadesha Gibbs. âWe were expecting somebody different who didnât know us or about what the Lady Red Devils are about. Getting him as our coach was exciting. It was a change, but a good change. We didnât mind at all.â
Replacing eight players from last yearâs squad. Leading this yearâs Lady Red Devils is a core of seniors that includes Shynese Whitener, Kadesha Gibbs, Abbie Vanhorn and Cayla Miller.
âWeâre starting kind of new,â Whitener said.
âA lot of people are counting us out. That is only going to make us work harder and work more as a team. We have a lot to look forward to and live up to this season.â
Williams said he hopes this veteran group will lead his squad.
âFor them, itâs a ticking clock,â Williams said. âEvery time they walk off the floor, that is one less time they have. I stress to them to make it worthwhile, push it as hard as you can, make every day count, letâs learn something and get better as a team and family.âView more articles in: