Jae Middleton allowed himself about 10 hours to rest his legs after a long season on the football field. After that, the Bluffton High senior was back in the gym, refining his shot for the upcoming basketball season.
"As soon as football ended, I got on the court and started shooting in the morning," he said. "I came out to practice the following Monday."
The senior had no time for a layoff. After coming off the bench a year ago, Middleton knew he would finally step on the court this season as a starter.
With veteran shooters such as Demetrius Smalls and C.J. Frazier no longer on the roster, Middleton and his jump shot would be relied upon to get the youthful Bobcats through this early portion of this year.
"Me coming off the bench playing the role I did, I think I played good," he said. "But now that I'm a starter, I feel like I have to lead this team a little bit more."
He wasted little time making his presence known Friday, accounting for 12 of his team's first 20 points as Bluffton raced past rival Hilton Head Island High, 53-32, in its season opener.
Middleton, who led all scorers with 20, connected on three straight 3-pointers in the first few minutes to give the Bobcats (1-0) a 13-0 lead. The Seahawks (0-2) never threatened after that, as Middleton continued to pour it on along with Dutch Fork transfer D.J. Dobson, who chipped in 13.
"I'm proud of him," coach Brett Macy said of Middleton. "Those first three were wide-open shots. ... He did a good job of moving, he found his shot and made shots. He stroked it."
His performance was more than enough to dispatch Hilton Head High, which preceded Friday's loss with a 70-37 setback to Whale Branch Early College High School on Tuesday. The youthful Seahawks will continue to learn over next several weeks as they deal with the loss of point guard Jacob Coltrane, who remains sidelined with a separated shoulder.
"We go game to game, we go day to day," coach Ken Updike said. "Did we play better than we did Tuesday? Yes. For us, that's a success. You've got a lot of guys playing lots of different places playing lots of different minutes."
Macy has his own inexperience to handle this season, as the streaky Bobcats will rely heavily on jump shots as their post play continues to develop.
Enter Middleton, whose work in the gym paid off quickly against the rival Seahawks.
"At first I struggled to find my shot," he said. "But as I stayed in the gym and kept working hard, I got my legs under me and started hitting it."
Bluffton boys 53, Hilton Head High 32
Hilton Head High (0-2) -- Aaron Frazier 9, Troy Clifford 8, Tate Steinour 6, Craig Ryan 5, Bryce Singleton 4
Bluffton (1-0) -- Jae Middleton 20, D.J. Dobson 13, Adriel Willis 7, LaQuan Washington 6, Lorenz Taylor 5, Chance Murphy 2
Hilton Head High girls 45, Bluffton 31
Add another 12 turnovers to the Seahawks' early-season miscues. Throw in a 12-of-32 performance from the free-throw line, too.
But don't expect coach Dave Greenberg's mood to change anytime soon.
"I'm very pleased at this point," he said. "I don't think a lot of people outside thought we'd be 2-0. We thought we would struggle in the beginning."
The Seahawks have just five returning players, one of which -- guard Lauryn Bush -- continues to work back into form after ACL surgery. And yet, Hilton Head High has overcome any perceived weaknesses through its first two games.
Americal Jenkins may have something to do with that. The junior poured in a game-high 17 points and 21 rebounds, and Bush added 14 points as the Seahawks continued their perfect start.
Hilton Head High erased a one-point deficit with a 7-0 run to end the first period and never allowed Bluffton to get much closer. The Bobcats' 26 turnovers made sure of that.
A poor showing at the charity stripe and 12 turnovers of their own cheapened the final score. But the Seahawks aren't complaining.
"I'm really happy," Greenberg said. "I think our effort's been tremendous, and I think our defense most of the time is really, really good."
Hilton Head High (2-0) -- Americal Jenkins 17, Lauryn Bush 14, Savannah Reier 8, Tiffany Banks 4, Rachel Friend 1, Brennan O'Gorman 1
Bluffton (0-1) -- Baylor Davis 11, Diamon Smalls 5, Erin Doering 4, Evian Mitchell 3, Autumn Card 2, Tianna Donaldson 2, Dynasty Mervin 2, Rickii Alexander 2