Getting Milton back on track is now the responsibility of new coach Matt Kramer, who took over the reins in July from interim coach Van Keys.
The 44-year old Kramer, who coached high school basketball in Ohio before his arrival at Milton, takes over an Eagle program that enjoyed great success under Boyd with state championships in 2010 and ’12 and runner-up finishes in ’09 and ’11.
“It’s a tremendous job,” Kramer said. “I lived in Ohio all 44 years of my life and I think that speaks volumes about how I feel about the opportunity that Milton presents. We moved here for the specific reason of me taking the opportunity and that’s the long and short of it.”
Kramer’s tenure at Milton has gotten off to a strong start, with the Eagles at 4-1 overall and 3-0 in Region 5AAAAAA.
While pleased with Milton’s start, Kramer said his team still has a long way to go.
“I like being 4-1 and the object obviously is to win games,” he said. “But the first thing I’m going to say about these kids is that they’re nowhere near as good as they will be at the end of the year. They were put at an extreme disadvantage at the start of the season, because I wasn’t here until July – that’s how the process worked out. Our kids are learning basketball calculus, if you will, on the fly.
“It’s a system that takes time to master, the system that I teach, and they’re getting it all at once. We’ve had 34 practices and five games and, quite frankly, we could use about 20 more practices before we play another game. All that being said, we have some terrific players here. We don’t have a McDonald’s All-American at every position that they did maybe two or three years ago, but we have some very good players here.”
Six-foot-8 sophomore center Chris Lewis leads the team in scoring with 12 points per game, while 6-8 senior forward and Georgia Southern signee Shawn O’Connell is averaging 10 points a game and is leading the Eagles’ in rebounding with 5.8 per contest.
Navy signee Mo Lewis, a 6-6 forward is also scoring 10 points a game, while 6-1 junior point guard Jordan Burrow is scoring 9.4 points a game and provides a spark on defense with 5.8 steals per contest and 6-3 senior guard Da Quain Watts (8.2 ppg) provides leadership along with fellow co-captains O’Connell and Mo Lewis.
The Eagles face some tough challenges over the holiday period as they play in the City of Palms Classic in Fort Myers, Fla., today through Sunday and the Arby’s Classic in Bristol, Tenn. Dec. 27 through 31 – both tournaments featuring some of the best teams in the nation.
It doesn’t get any easier for Milton after the Christmas break as it faces games against 5AAAAAA powerhouses Wheeler (Jan. 7) and Walton (Jan. 10).
“We’ll be playing some of the best teams in the country [at the holiday tournaments] and that will teach us some things about who we are and how far we still need to go,” Kramer said. “So, by the time we get to Wheeler, we’ll have a pretty good sense of where we fit into the big picture and we’ll also know what we need to do to get better and that’s exciting.”