New-look Raiders set to take region & state by storm [VIDEO]

It wasn’t that long ago that Habersham Central was poised to return a very young group of players headlined by star guard Malachi Dooley. Once Aric Mawdesley took the Raiders head coaching position, though, the entire look of the team changed.

Suddenly, Mawdesley was bringing a fellow 1,000-point scorer in his son Mekhi, who would pair up with Dooley to form a solid 1-2 punch.

“It’s been incredible,” says coach Mawdesley. “They enjoy playing together, they’ve played travel ball together, and it’s been kind of cool to see that fit together. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Dooley felt the same way.

“It was really special, because me and Mekhi were talking about during AAU in spring season,” says Dooley. “We were like, maybe we can team up one day. Mekhi text me the day that [coach Mawdesley] was signing to coach here, and we were just starting smiling and laughing. I get a good teammate, and a good coach as well.”

The dynamic those stars created energized the entire team. Add in solid players like Bryce Pittman, Brannon Gaines, and up-and-comer Cole Gary, and the Raiders looked like a force to be reckoned with. Still, there were depth issues. That is until the arrival of Florida players who were well familiar with Habersham, both Osmar Garcia and Landon Suarez. The plug-and-play combo fell in line, and immediately changed the perception of this team.

“It’s been interesting,” says coach Mawdesley. “They have a home up here. When I got here I was told they were never coming here. As time went on, their family loves it up here. They struggled with it, as they lived in Miami. But they love Demorest and want to be up here. I much preferred they came in the fall, but moving is tough. They’re a great couple of kids, and they’re the kind of kids that could make it work. There’s going to be some bumps along the road…but they all want to win, and they really enjoy hanging out together.”

In their first game with the new look, the Raiders fell at #2-ranked powerhouse Buford, with a controversial ending that had Habersham losing by 2 points. However, it opened the eyes around the state on what this team is capable of.

“The fight that they have, just the belief that they have,” says Mawdesley. “We had some specific things we wanted to do in that game, and we went out and did it. They’re at a place where they are bought in and believing.”

The goals, according to coach Mawdesley, is playing their best basketball, making the state playoffs, and being in the mix once the playoffs start. The loss to Buford resulted in a top-10 state ranking for the Raiders.

The team tries to not get caught up in the hype of rankings and perception.

“We just have to stay true to what we do as a team, and not get too bought into all that,” says Mekhi Mawdesley. “We still have to prove ourselves. We still need to go out and beat [region teams] to show we earn that spot.”

At 9-6 overall heading into a Friday matchup, both Dooley (uncommitted recruit) and Mawdesley (committed to Reinhardt) are looking to close out strong, with hopes of avenging region losses to Buford and Shiloh.

As for coach Mawdesley, he always envisioned the opportunity to coach and live in Habersham, and it appears to be a great fit.

“I was not making plans to move,” says Mawdesley. “We had just went through 2 moves, and then this job came open. My parents live in this area, we have lived in this area…my kids have a lot of memories here. I looked at this job before, and things just didn’t come together. When it came open, I knew we had to take a look. We feel like we’re home.”

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