Coach Chris Short has been Chattahoochee’s Head Basketball Coach for 3 seasons. In Year 1, the Cougars didn’t make the playoffs. Last year, they lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual state champion Tri-Cities. This season, the Cougars were the ones in the winner’s circle as they defeated Lanier to claim the 6A GHSA State Title. While Chattahoochee did boast Rice Signee Cam Sheffield and Top 2021 prospect AJ Whiteyear this , it takes much more than that to win it all. Coach Short, his staff, and the Cougar players were able to get over the hump and figure out what it takes in Year 3. Short was an assistant coach at Roswell when I played there, and it seems like he has carried over a lot of the positive qualities he had as an assistant over into Chattahoochee’s program and culture. He went in-depth with us in talking about his journey so far with the Cougars, this year specifically, and what’s ahead for the program as they enter a new region in 2020-21.
2017-18 Record: 13-12
2018-19 Record: 23-7 (6A GHSA Sweet 16)
2019-20 Record: 25-7 (6A GHSA State Champion)
The 2019-20 season was only your 3rd year at the helm of the Cougar program, but you were already able to reach the ultimate goal of a state championship just a few weeks ago. What has allowed you to get to that point in a short period of time? Are there any unique aspects to your program and its culture that separates you from others across the state?
“I would say that the #1 reason we’ve been so successful the last few years and won a state championship in year 3 is because of the player buy in. They’ve been great about being opened-minded, working hard, and doing the little things right. One thing we continually focus on are the little things that help win games. When we remember the details, we’ve been able to execute, steal possessions, and put ourselves in a position to come out on top. The biggest issue for me is playing hard. If we can give the best effort and slow the game down for our players then we’re a step ahead when it comes to decision making on the court. Our kids have learned how to do that on a consistent basis. That’s buy in!”
“We’ve also been fortunate to have great players. With Cameron Sheffield and AJ White leading the charge, they provide a lot of statistical advantaged, and role players have been great the last two years. Cameron and AJ can really score, are coachable, and their work ethics are unmatched! Those two are never not in the gym… I have to tell them to rest vs. get working. Captain and/or senior leadership is huge for a program and It’s proven itself the last two years. Last year, I thought that last year we would make a deeper run in the playoffs than we did. But, facing the eventual state champ in the sweet sixteen and not scoring well in the 4th quarter really hurt our chances. Seniors this year didn’t want to repeat that feeling. They wanted a different outcome!”
What were the biggest differences and improvements this year compared to the previous 2 seasons that resulted in you guys getting over the hump and winning a state title? Was there a specific focus this year, were your players more hungry, or anything else?
“I would say a couple of things were the reason for us getting over the hump.”
- “Our players developed and got better. AJ White was super consistent and killer from the FT line. Cameron was harder to guard b/c of his inside/outside game. David McDaniel had a huge impact on the floor for us, especially the second half of the season. His rebounding, scoring, and defensive presence on the floor was what really propelled us to being harder to beat. Franklin Bailey is an outside threat and has a ton of experience in time and score situations. Jahari Williams did great coming from a role players position at the beginning of the season into a starting role. This starting 5 was consistent, which is what we lacked last year. Consistency and different players stepping up throughout the season in various games to get you over the hump is critical. Most scouting reports keyed in on Cameron and AJ so multiple players stepping up was huge.”
- “We also had more depth this year. We had 4 guys (9 deep) that came off the bench with different strengths. Gil Matondo with speed, defensive ability 1 on 1, and rebounding to Chase Chavis being able to guard 1 on 1 with the point guards etc. We also have Keith Murray who came off the bench with point production and the ability to be another ball handler for us. Tomiwa Adetesoye came off the bench as another big ball handler, great defender, rebounded well from the guard position, and is incredibly athletic. Last year we weren’t as deep so that played a role.”
Things are getting realigned next year but you guys have been in a difficult region- Talk about what it’s been like playing in that region and how it has helped prepare you guys for the playoffs.
“Scheduling is key to a teams growth. Its just as important to skill development, work ethic, etc… Our region the last few years has beaten each other up each and every night. The new region is going to be the same way. This season we tried to schedule tough, playoff caliber teams so we could be better prepared for the playoffs. Toughest schedule in Hooch history. Playing teams like Pebblebrook twice, Kell, Shiloh all prepared us for this moment. Not a lot can replace game-time experience. Next year we lose Dunwoody, Northview, Pope but pick up Sequoyah, River Ridge, Riverwood. Definitely teams that can come in and be players in the new region. Another tough region schedule will only help us again and be prepared to make another run at the ultimate prize.”
You’ll now be losing Cam Sheffield and a few other important seniors- How do you think you can combat that and continue to have success next year? Are there any players you expect to step up and help take some of the load off of AJ White?
“We had better depth this year and needed it in practice, games, and certain situations. That depth is going to carry on. We’ve got a rising senior in Keith Murray who is a good scoring threat who can also defend and handle the ball. A couple of rising Juniors come to mind in Tomiwa Adetesoye and Gil Matondo who played a ton of minutes and will all be able to step in. We also have a good assortment of shooters and guys that can play but will need to adjust and step up. I think we’re in a good position to be in the top again and feel like if we continue to prep, work hard, and be coachable that we can be there again. AJ’s leadership and consistency is going to be key. A lot of plans to stop him will be in place next year from a scouting report standpoint so we’re already developing plans to make him feel more comfortable, supported, and backed up by his teammates.”