A post-season run one year ago brought in some of the largest crowds in school history to Rebel Arena but now, in the wake of a special season, the Rebels ran the roads of the Tri-State area participating in six different basketball camps and shootouts during a three-week period where teams can play organized basketball, getting a sneak peak of what the upcoming season might look like.
"It was a good opportunity for three weeks to get the kids together and back on board playing some organized basketball outside of AAU ( or travel) ball and also gives you a fresh look at the ninth graders coming in as well," Tolsia boys basketball coach Todd Maynard said.
In the three week period, Maynard said the team held just a handful of legitimate practices with the eighteen to twenty students that participated.
Everything else was shootouts and games, and while that ratio might appear to be lopsided, but it's exactly how he wanted it.
"That was the goal. When you come to a new program you already know it's going to take a couple years to implement the system you want to run," Maynard, who will enter his third season as the Rebels head coach, said. "In the past couple years we've practiced a lot more but I'm confident in our guys that know the system to be able to teach it to the younger ones coming in."
He said incoming freshman, having watched the team for the past two seasons, had a pretty good idea of the system they were coming in to but that returning player have answered the call to help them develop into it even more.
Tolsia put the rubber to the road, traveling to three states to play in shootouts at Ashland, Belfry, University of Pikeville in Kentucky, George Washington HS, Marshall University in West Virginia and the University of Rio Grande in Ohio.
"We faced some good competition. The boys played about thirty games in a two week stretch so I know they were pretty gassed. Heck, I was tired and all I had to do was coach," Maynard said.
Tired as he (and they) might be, Maynard said it's been the highlight of his young coaching career to see their team-oriented attitudes work in sync with one another.
"They work together, they don't talk down to each other, and if you saw our bench you'd think we were playing regular season ball, not summer league," he said. "The culture is the main focus. We've got a really good group of kids that don't have a whole lot of egos and work well together."
Another major focus this off-season for Maynard's team has been finding strong leadership.
In a season where Tolsia was within one game of making the West Virginia State Tournament in Charleston, it was then-senior Jacob Mollette leading the charge.
Mollette having graduated, it leaves a group of key contributors and rising upperclassmen to take on the role of what Maynard called the team's 'sheepdog.'
"I had a conversation with the team about who is going to lead us. When we lost Mollette we didn't just lose his scoring and three point shooting ability but we lost his leadership as well," Maynard said.
"We need a sheepdog that is going step up and coral the sheep and get them all headed in the same direction."
For that, he's turned his attention to Tyler Johnson, Rob Cantrell, Gavin Meadows, and Austin Salmons, who all had a hand in Tolsia's success last year. Leadership, Maynard said, isn't just about being vocal, but also setting an example to follow.
Take a guy like Austin (Salmons) for example. He's got an amiable personality so he's not going to be the one screaming or jumping around all the time but we don't need guys to just tell people what to do but lead by example," Maynard said of the rising junior. "He's a worker, man, I don't think he's missed a game of ball at all this summer and it shows. He's come a long way."