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NOHS first-year head coach Rick Rasmussen leads the Titans through warm ups drills in a preseason practice.

The difference between excellence and mediocrity is commitment. For North Oconee High School new boys basketball team head coach Rick Rasmussen, changing the culture has begun with changing the commitment level of his players.

Rasmussen has been in place at NOHS since the spring and got the entire summer with his new team and it helped ease away some of the introduction process when practices begun last week.

Instead of learning names, Rasmussen got the opportunity to hammer on and build off of some of the fundamental foundation of what he hopes to make Titans’ basketball into in the near future.

Culture change starts with commitment.

“We are changing the culture and really upping the commitment level and we’re demanding commitment,” Rasmussen said. “They’ve got to put their heart into it and really be committed. Part of that is letting us coach them hard and demanding their best. All of that stuff has made a difference. You’re going to be good at what you work at.”

The Titans had some success to end last season as they defeated Oconee County High School twice to qualify for the Class 4A state playoffs. The Titians followed that up with a 13-5 record during their summer games. Having some early success has made the transition into the late fall practices seamless for Rasmussen. The players that are already on the court have come into preseason practices chomping at the bit to take advantage of what they learned in the summer. There is a little bit of momentum behind the Titans starting the season.

“We were grinding and doing everything that we could to learn how to be successful and learn how to win close games,” Rasmussen said. “We put everything we had into and we’ll continue to do that. There are going to be some bumps in the road. There are going to be some ups and downs and some highs and lows. I think we will strive to be even keel. When you’re outmatched and you lose a game, you want to make sure you win the ones that you should win. We’re trying to teach the psychological factors of preparation.”

Rasmussen knows there will be struggles for the young and developing Titans’ team. The 2019 schedule doesn’t make things any easier.

The Titans will face Apalachee High School in their opener. The Wildcats will have their full roster, while the Titans will still be awaiting the arrival of a few key players to join them from the football team.

Johns Creek High School and Starr’s Mill will both bring some size to comeback the Titans in December.

The Region 8-4A will be a tough one as usual with back-to-back champions St. Pius X Catholic back as one of the favorites. The goal is to build toward hanging basketball banners inside the gym. The Titans don’t have a region championship banner inside the gym. While Rasmussen respects the region his Titans will play in, but there is an expectation of competing for banners in the coming seasons.

“It’s what I would call a typical 4A region,” Rasmussen said. “I think that parts really exciting. region championships and state playoff runs are always the goal. You’ve got to get to state first and see what happens. How you do in the region and region tournament can determine a lot. This is the 15th year of this school and we’ve never won a region championship. That’s certainly a goal.”

The Titans will host Pinecrest Academy Thursday night at 7 p.m. in a scrimmage. The Titans open their season on Nov. 14 when they host AHS at 7:30 p.m.

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