Expect Forsyth Central's girls basketball team to score plenty of points in 2021-22.
At least that's the hope of recent hire Antonio Wade, who was selected to lead the program following previous head coach Angela Hurt's transition into an administrative role at the school.
Wade, who spent the past four seasons at Roswell and also coached four seasons at Thomasville, is familiar with Forsyth County, having faced at least one county team in each of his four seasons with the Hornets.
"When we played Forsyth County girls, they were always talented and I just thought I could build a program there that can have sustained success," Wade said.
In fact, two of Roswell's past three seasons ended at North Forsyth, including in February when the Raiders beat the Hornets 62-41. North also eliminated Roswell in the Elite Eight of the 2018-19 season, 35-28.
"Like you saw when we played North in the Elite Eight, if I need to play a defensive grind game, we can play a defensive grind game," Wade said. "So, we've got to be flexible in that case, but mostly we're going to be fast-paced and creating a lot of chaos over the course of 32 minutes or until that last horn sounds."
Still, Wade is most comfortable when his team can push tempo and score transition buckets.
"That's me. I'm fast-paced and I like up-tempo," Wade said. "I like to put the ball in the hoop, but I'm also big on distributing shots. I just have to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the girls and put them in the best position to be successful, and that's the biggest thing. I love fast pace and you can expect fast pace and hopefully a lot of scoring."
Central struggled to a 7-12 record last year, largely a result of UMass signee Aisha Dabo suffering a season-ending knee injury at the beginning of the year.
Before that, Central enjoyed a banner season in 2019-20, finishing 19-9 and reaching the Region 5-7A championship game and the first round of the Class 7A playoffs for the second straight season.
"With me doing my research, I know that they train their girls at a young age. Basketball is 1A or 1B in the county," Wade said. "The people in this county are excited about basketball and support all girls athletics, not just boys like they do in some counties."
Central graduates Dabo, as well as all-county post Elizabeth Pruitt, but the Bulldogs return one of the county's top scorers in Jillian Bretz, who has picked up nearly a half-dozen offers since the end of the season.
The Bulldogs will also be affected by the changing landscape of Forsyth County, with East Forsyth opening later this year and drawing students from Central and North.
"I do know I have one returning all-region player, and some girls with some varsity experience, but for the most part we're going to be young," Wade said.
Wade, who will teach special education at Central, reached the playoffs in each of his eight seasons at Roswell and Thomasville. He enjoyed relatively quick success at each stop, going 24-9 in his second season with Thomasville in 2014-15 and 21-9 in his second season with Roswell in 2018-19, when the Hornets reached the Elite Eight.
"Well, with my experience as being a head coach and coming in to a place where I'm new and they're young, and they maybe have one or two players with varsity experience, I'm experienced with working with a group like that," Wade said. "My thing is to bring in that culture and the mentality ... of them expecting to win, like I did when I got to Roswell."
Wade is the second new girls basketball coach in the county, joining East Forsyth head coach Mike Hedrick.
“We are excited to announce that Coach Antonio Wade will be joining Forsyth Central as a teacher and head girls basketball coach,” Principal Josh Lowe said in a statement. “He brings with him a wealth of experience in the classroom and track record of sustained success, including leading several teams to state playoff berths that make him the perfect fit for this position. We look forward to him working with our students in the coming years and to see all of the student-athletes in our girls basketball program achieve at the highest level academically and athletically.”