On Wednesday, Phenom Hoops traveled to Forsyth Country Day School to view practice. Upon entering the gym, the energy and intensity level was high from the start. As I was sitting there watching practice, it made me want to get out there and be a part of it. It was a college level practice. Entering his first season at Forsyth Country Day, Head Coach Doug Esleeck and his staff are quickly changing the culture and instilling a winning mindset within the program. Every head coach throughout the country talks about culture. What is culture? Culture is the behaviors you tolerate, and the behaviors you celebrate. That was clearly evident at a Forsyth Country Day School practice.

From the beginning warmup, to skill development, to live competition, everything was done with purpose and with high energy. The attention to detail was something that really stuck out to me. For example, when Coach Esleeck was talking, every player gave him eye contact. When he told the players to get to the sideline, they sprinted to the sideline and stood on the sideline. When he said to put the balls up, players sprinted to put the balls up in their correct place and then sprinted back to the huddle to listen to the coach. They didn’t throw the balls over in the direction of where they were supposed to be, nor did they shoot extra shots after he blew the whistle. These may seem like small things, but when the game is on the line, these are the things that will make all the difference between a team that executes and a team that doesn’t.

Coach Esleeck preaches energy and positive communication. There was a competitive segment in which he made the comment, “Winners encourage their teammates.” Earlier, I mentioned that culture is the behaviors that you tolerate and the behaviors you celebrate. Your best is always required. Anything less than your best is not acceptable. You sprint. You give maximum effort. You listen. You encourage. When a teammate makes a great play, everyone celebrates.

Although the Furies have a young team, they return leading scorer Jay Mitchell, a 6’2 senior who averaged 15.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.2 blocks per game and was an All-Conference selection last season. After having transferred to Forsyth Country Day prior to his Junior season, Mitchell has played for a different coach every year during his high school career. That is not always easy, especially for a senior to have a new coach for his last season. But Mitchell has embraced the new staff and his leadership role within the team. From the beginning of practice to the end, Mitchell remained vocal, getting everyone going, and leading them in a positive manner. Mitchell is extremely athletic and explosive. Defensively, he uses his length and athleticism to pressure the ball. He made multiple blocks when contesting shooters. On the offensive end, he continues to showcase his ability to make shots. He has a smooth looking shot and can really get hot off the catch. He’s explosive attacking the basket and can finish above the rim and through contact.

Also returning is 2021 Chance Carter who averaged 13.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game last year. The 6’2 combo guard will really stretch the defense with his perimeter shooting ability. Just recently at our Phenom Fall Finale, Carter had two games in which he went 5-5 and 4-7 from beyond the arc.

Forsyth Country Day has several young players that will be key in the building of this program. 2025 Nathaniel ‘Q’ Williams, is a strong point guard with a high IQ. He plays with tremendous poise and pace for his age. He pushes the ball in transition, keeps his head up and finds the open man. He does a great job of changing pace and attacking the gaps to find shooters in drive and kick situations. He has shown the ability to knock down the perimeter shot, which will open up driving opportunities for him to create for himself and others.

2024 Draven Pilson has all the physical tools and potential. At 6’6, his mix of length, skill and athleticism will be intriguing for coaches at the next level. He has a 6’8 wingspan. He really excels in transition where he can utilize his athleticism. He also has good body control at the end of drives. He made a nice euro step in transition and finished the basket. He has the ability to consistently knock down the perimeter shot off the catch. In addition, he can use his skill set and length to get into the paint on drives, and either finish or kick out to the open man. Defensively, he uses his length well to contest shots. He made a high level chase down block in transition saving a basket. And when he did, the entire team celebrated this effort.

2022 Brandon Morgan is another returner who averaged 11.7 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game last season. Morgan is a versatile guard prospect who has the ability to play on and off the ball. He showed the ability to run the point, initiate offense, and create off the bounce. He is a good driver and can finish at the rim against contact.

Other players that made an impression during practice were 2023 Trey Tisdale, 2025 Bryce Baker, 2023 Enzo Geremski, and 2022 Saylor Schott. Trey Tisdale will offer more perimeter shooting for the Furies. He is young player who isn’t afraid to step up to take and make shots. Bryce Baker is another young player with potential. The versatile combo guard is a dual-sport athlete where he is a quarterback as well. Enzo Geremski is a lefty who showcased his ability to knock down the perimeter shot. Saylor Schott has only been playing competitive basketball for a year, but his motor and activity on the defensive end and the offensive glass will prove valuable for this team.

The future is bright for Forsyth Country Day. Coach Esleeck and staff are building something special. The attention to details, the focus on the fundamentals, and the collective buy-in from all the players, coaches and staff members will help take this program to the next level.