RABBITTOWN — Even growing up in Loganville, to Tommy Yancey, East Hall boys basketball was more than a household word in his parts.
“I played at Loganville and they played East Hall and Gainesville when I was a kid. I know all about the Vikings. Everyone around there knew about East Hall. I’ve always considered them a gold standard in the north Georgia area,” Yancey recalled. “It’s always been a place that was set apart in my eyes.”
The Vikings, however, have fallen on lean times of late. They missed the playoffs this past season for the first time since 2009 and just the second time since 1992. Their 6-18 overall record for the 2019-20 season was a program-low in wins.
Now, Yancey will see if he can turn the ship around at Valhalla. Last week he was named the newest head coach of the Vikings. In fact, he is the fourth coach in the last four years to start the season as the head man in Rabbittown.
East Hall had just two coaches -- Seth Vining and Joe Dix -- from 1991 to 2018.
“I know some of the things that have been going on there the last few years but I believe it is still one of the top jobs in the state,” Yancey said. “I feel like there is still plenty of bullets in the chamber talent-wise up there. I’m really looking forward to getting up there and getting going.”
Yancey left George Walton Academy, a program housed in the uber-tough Region 8-A and was poised for a breakout season. However, injuries derailed things leading to a brutal 3-22 campaign this past season.
“I’ve never been a part of a team that suffered so much adversity as last year (at George Walton),” Yancey said. “We lost our starting point guard -- a kid that was attracting Ivy League offers -- just four minutes into the season and then the next night his backup, another good player, broke his foot and was out. We had another starter go down before Christmas and then our top inside guy broke his kneecap in a car accident during the break. But that’s part of sports and you just try to make do with what you have.”
What the Vikings may have is 11 returning lettermen from last year, including rising-senior Imre Earls and rising-juniors Christian Torres and Clete Cooper.
“I really like a lot of the guys that are coming back,” Yancey said. “I see Imre really progressing, for instance, and several of the other guys. I think on offense people will see perhaps a little more structure as far as half-court sets and things like that. A flex kind of offense.
“On defense, we’ll add a little more pressure on the ball but I don’t know if it will be a press like East Hall has run in the past. But that could depend on scouting reports. But again, I think there is plenty on the roster to work with to have success.”
For Yancey, the main goal is to try and get the Vikings back to where he is used to seeing them.
“It doesn’t seem right when East Hall is not near the top. That’s our goal -- to get East Hall back to where we are accustomed to seeing them,” he said. “It’s going to take a lot of work but if everyone buys into what we want to do, I don’t think it will take that long.
“I’m just ready for all this craziness to end so we can get back to normal and get to work. I think we’re all ready to go.”