Robert W. Groves High School new basketball gym

From Road Rebels to Guardians of The Castle

Groves High School basketball teams looking forward to new gym

Driving here, there, and to the hinterlands, Groves High School basketball teams played 95 consecutive games without a home court advantage, earning them their nickname, the Road Rebels.

The Rebels are looking forward to playing in their new gym, with a ribbon cutting scheduled for this Friday, May 10, and a nickname already given to the state of the art facility. The coaches eyes lit up as images of creative practice plans danced in their heads, dreaming of the hardwood that would soon be their home court advantage with hundreds of students cheering them on in the stands, “we are calling it the Castle,” Coach Amber Chambers revealed.

click to enlarge From Road Rebels to Guardians of The Castle (4)
Robert W. Groves High School - "The Pride of the Westside"

To make room for the new ESPLOST-funded 6-12 Multicampus in Garden City, in 2020, Robert W. Groves High School moved into what had been the Mercer Middle School building; the students of Mercer Middle School moved to the Savannah Chatham County Public School System swing site on Montgomery Street near Derenne - leaving the Rebels without a basketball gym.

Coach Chambers says, “On the road, we have had a big turn out of parents, but now with a new gym, we can include the students because they won’t have to get rides. We will be a lot more spirited at the games and that will influence the team to play harder because they will have support from their friends and family at the new gym.”

“The one thing that I want my girls to take from the past few years is to always be humble because there is always a bigger picture out there, and you need to remember where you come from,” says Chambers. “There have been a lot of up and down battles with buses, transportation, leaving jerseys, stuff like that; it can become a hassle. We had to make a commitment to what we are trying to build on.”

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Coach Amber Chambers and the Lady Rebels

“Even when we get to the Castle down the street, I don’t want them to go in there and think that we are big time now, no, we still want to present ourselves as young women,” declares Chambers.

Chambers laughs deviously thinking about all of the extra workouts that they will have in the new gym, “I’m looking forward to the weight room; not gonna lie, I hate it for them.”

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Coach Kevin Evans with the Road Rebels

Coach Kevin Evans, who graduated from Groves in 2011 and returned to coach basketball concurs, “I think that they are going to hate me in the new gym because there will be a whole lot of running when I can push the bleachers in and have a lot more space.”

Of the years leading the Road Rebels, Evans says, “It was tough, definitely tough, not just because we had to go to a different gym every game, it was also mentally tough because you are taking 15, 16, 17, 18 year old boys and expecting them to compete with everything else going on in their world such as grades and family issues.”

“We really bonded with each other off the court and that is what made us really good on the court. I would ask my guys, how do you want to be remembered? Yea, as a Road Rebel, but what else?”

“To get through the adversity, we had to have a lot of heart; love for the game, love for teammates, love for coaches. Everyone called us the Road Rebels because we weren’t going into our own gyms, but we still had to play the game and we didn’t make any excuses about why we couldn’t compete or why we couldn’t win games,” explains Evans.

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The bleachers of the new Groves High School gym will seat over 1,200 people

Coach Evans encourages, “I want everyone to come out and be more spirited. The new gym is going to bring a lot of alumni out to the games, and a lot more students. We are going to have our own student section. That means something when you have a bunch of folks cheering for you when you are shooting at the free throw line; you get that camaraderie from the community and it builds a better culture.”

There will be 1,256 seats in the new Groves High School gym, so plenty of space for people to cheer when the Road Rebels hang up their traveling bags and play half of their games in their own home gym.

Hallii Thomas and Sidney Flaggs spent their entire high school basketball career not having a home gym, both students will be attending college in the fall.

Thomas, who played for the Lady Rebels and is going to pursue a degree in exercise science, says, “We had to be really dedicated, we had to want it, and not just say that we wanted it, we had to be all in.”

“I had to learn leadership skills and come out of my comfort zone, it was hard, but I had to do it for the team, for the younger kids, the freshmen and sophomores, because they really don’t understand the significance of what the sport means to everyone else yet.”

Sidney Flaggs scored almost 600 points his senior year with the team, and he plans to continue playing basketball in college, “I’ve learned to take advantage of the small stuff that we have had, and to appreciate the schools that hosted us. We’ve never had a gym. This year I had to be more verbal and comfortable being a leader, I had to step up and be like a big brother.”

A'Zedia Edwards and Josiah Manning, both rising seniors, will reap the benefits of the new multi-campus that was budgeted at $118,000,000.

A'Zedia Edwards is in ROTC and plans to enlist in the military for a career in logistics upon graduation. “I’ve learned to be dedicated. I’m going to be honest, at first I didn’t want to play basketball, but then I started to go to practices and I started loving the sport.”

That dedication, along with the perseverance and commitment that she and her teammates have had to had will serve her well in the military, “It is a big difference, because I have been here my whole life, and when you deploy you don’t know where you are going to go so it is like a new world to where you are going to be stationed.”

As for next year, Edwards says, “I’ve never been in a high school building before, I had to come right back here after middle school. I’m looking forward to having home games because we have never had our own gym before, and a locker to keep my things in.”

Josiah Manning also never had the rite of passage that comes with transitioning from a middle school building to a high school building because their middle school classrooms became their high school when the old Groves building was demolished.

“We have had to be responsible, we can’t leave our jerseys, balls, equipment for the games,” says Manning. “We’ve had to make sure that the younger guys are doing everything that they need to do, even if you have to get on them, do it in a way that shows them that we are still brothers and not just fussing at them.”

Regarding representing the Road Rebels, Manning says, “We have shown respect for other schools and teams, win or lose, showing that we have sportsmanship.”

click to enlarge From Road Rebels to Guardians of The Castle
Groves Rebels new gym and scoreboard
“I’m looking forward to the floors in the new gym because what we have now is slipping and sliding," says Manning. The new floor will allow for a higher quality of play, and reduce the likelihood of injuries.

“I’m excited just to experience a high school building for real. I’m ready to play in the new gym. Having a locker will definitely be a plus so we don’t have to carry around our basketball bags all day," says Manning.

“Nobody wants to lose in their own gym, so I think that will make us want to win more,” concludes Manning.

One thing is certain, it is going to be a lot more difficult to defeat the Kings and Queens of the new Groves High School Castle.

For all the us against the world mentality, the Road Rebels will now have the pride of saying “this is our house."
click to enlarge From Road Rebels to Guardians of The Castle (5)
Robert W. Groves High School

Kristy Edenfield

Freelance Correspondent
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