It will be hard for Blake Hall to duplicate his debut season as a high school head basketball coach. But he will try.
Last winter, the former Pinewood Prep star made his debut as the coach of the North Charleston Cougars. He guided the team to a 23-6 record and the school’s first state championship since 1997.
This year, he’s the new coach at Goose Creek, a team Brad Dobbels turned into a consistent top 10 program.
“It’s a whole new ballgame,” said Hall, whose Gators are one of 10 local teams in the 20th annual Piggly Wiggly Roundball Classic, which runs Dec. 26-29 at North Charleston High School. “We’re learning, and there’s a big curve.
“Winning a state championship at North Charleston was a great experience for me. But it was something the team, the school and community can be proud of. Basketball is important in North Charleston, and I worked with a great group of kids. Leaving North Charleston was the hardest decision of my young career.”
The Gators open their season tonight against Timberland, and three players are making the transition from the gridiron to the hardwood: Rashard Alston, Deshawn Evans and Dantez Bennamon, who led the Gators in scoring last season. Bennamon, who played quarterback, is only a junior.
Another key player is Kameron Robinson, a 6-1 sophomore whose brother, Raemond, was an All-Lowcountry selection in football and basketball.
Pairings for this year’s Roundball Classic were announced at a news conference Monday. Former College of Charleston coach Bobby Cremins was the guest speaker.
Hall and his Gators learned they will play Thomas Jefferson High, one of the top teams in the New York metropolitan area, in the first round. The team has 10 lettermen back from last year’s team that went 26-10.
“The ball bounces the same way here as it does in Brooklyn,” Hall said. “The Roundball will be a good experience and help us get ready for region play.”
Hall is the third coach at Goose Creek in three years. Dobbels posted a 292-92 record in 14 seasons before resigning after the 2010-11 season to take a job as an assistant at Charleston Southern. Bruce Walls served as the interim coach last season and led the team to a 17-7 record.
The local teams in this year’s field include perennial SCISA powers Pinewood Prep and Porter-Gaud. The other local teams include Charleston Collegiate, West Ashley, Stratford, James Island, Summerville, Wando, Goose Creek and North Charleston.
The out-of-state teams include two North Carolina schools, Charlotte Christian and Northwood Temple, and two schools from Maryland — Mount St. Joseph and Our Lady of Good Counsel. The other teams are Roswell, Ga., and Thomas Jefferson.
Charlotte Christian went 24-8 last year and features future Clemson Tiger Patrick Rooks. He hit 37 percent from 3-point land last year and averaged 14 points a game.
Northwood Temple features 6-10 center Sidy Mohamed Djitte, who is getting recruited by numerous schools, including Memphis, Missouri, North Carolina State and Virginia Commonwealth.
Kam Williams is another high-profile player. He plays for Mount St. Joseph and averaged 18 points last winter. He will play for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Mt. St. Joseph went 28-6 and was a consensus top-10 team in Maryland last season.