TIFTON — Tift County basketball fans can get their first glimpse of the 2019-20 Blue Devils this Tuesday night when they host Worth County in a scrimmage.
Only the boys team will be in action, which gets started at 7:30 p.m. Admission will be free.
This will be Xavier Holmes first game leading Tift County. He was named interim head coach in August after Chris Wade’s departure to take an administrative position in Turner County. Holmes has more than 10 years of experience as an assistant, including being on staff for the 2014 and 2017 state championships.
Holmes’ roster is feeling the effects of football season. Several players are still in uniform for that sport. For now, he does have one big name from last year in the lineup, Jatarion Warren. Warren was the second leading scorer on last year’s state semifinals team, averaging 11.4 points per game. Through two seasons, he has 442 points, making a career 1,000 a strong possibility.
“J.T.’s going to be a major contributor,” said Holmes.
The rest of his scrimmage lineup likely won’t be as familiar to those who follow the high school team. Jyamier Beckhom played a bit of varsity last year — he hit a halfcourt shot against Camden County — but as Holmes put it, “We’re a work in progress.”
Beckhom and Quay High can both run point guard. “They’re interchangeable,” he said. High is a senior, but has never been in a varsity game. Beckhom is a junior.
Others with bits and pieces of varsity experience are M.J. Morrow and Julius Sims. Both had two points each in limited time. Morrow also scored in the Camden game. Sims made his mark against Colquitt County.
Holmes’ current roster runs about 10 deep. He said defense will be key this season, as the Devils lack much size. “We have to be better defensively,” he said. Last year’s squad held opponents to 49 points per game, 45 per game against region competition. Tift went undefeated against Region 1-AAAAAAA opponents, winning their seventh straight conference title.
Worth went 16-11 last year, winning over Jackson in the first round of the Class AAA state tournament before being ousted by Tattnall County.
After this scrimmage, the Blue Devils won’t be in action again for 17 days. They open the regular season in a tip-off tournament in Tallahassee, Fla., against opponents to be determined. Their first home game is set for Dec. 10 against Coffee.