Aug. 4—Russell Felton has been a familiar figure around the local high school basketball scene for years, and that won't change for this upcoming season.
He'll just be wearing different colors and standing on a different sideline.
Felton is trading in his Aiken High green and gold for South Aiken's garnet and gold as the T-Breds' new head girls' basketball coach.
"Being a head coach has always been a goal of mine, dream of mine, running a program," Felton said. "One of my main things I wanted to do was inspire. I've been doing basketball for close to 20 years, and there's been opportunities that might have come up but sometimes it was the wrong timing or other times I just wasn't their person.
"... I was always Aiken High and they were always the enemy, so to speak, and look who reels me in. That was different, but there's an opportunity here to help change the game, push basketball and just let our players see basketball from my perspective."
Felton takes over a South Aiken program that was just 3-13 in Region 5-AAAA play over the past two seasons and missed the playoffs in each. The T-Breds' last playoff appearance was in 2020, and their last winning season was the year before in Zackery Green's first with the team.
Last year's team had a shot at several more wins but struggled to finish games, with seven of the team's 12 losses coming by single digits.
Felton will look to turn that around, but acknowledged that it's going to be a flurry at first — he said he met some of his players Wednesday for the first time, so they've not had a full summer to work together.
However, he's seen them play in recent years, both in person and on film, and knows the cupboard at South Aiken isn't bare. He said his team should play high-energy, defense-focused basketball, and they'll work hard, train hard and set their goals high.
"I want to give these young ladies an opportunity to compete for a championship," he said. "It's all about winning. My initial goal is to build, work and inspire, and hopefully we can try to make the playoffs in this first year. I know it's going to be a battle. I just met some of them yesterday for the first time, and that wasn't everyone who's in the program. We're going to be in cram mode, and we're going to be pushing. We're going to be pushing hard."
It's no secret that North Augusta is the standard for girls' basketball not just in the region (now 4-AAAA in the new South Carolina High School League realignment) but also in the entire state, and the T-Breds always have spirited battles with region rivals like Aiken and Midland Valley. The goal now is to come out on the winning end of those to position themselves for greater things.
"South Aiken has always been a great place," Felton said. "They had great players in the past. I'm always going to be remembering the great Chris MacMurdo, who played at Stanford a long time ago when my sisters were playing in high school. She was an All-American, played at Stanford under the great Tara VanDerveer. The thing of it is, they've always had talent. We're going to try to get that going back again."