AIKEN - Darris Jackson stopped his players as they shot around in the Aiken gymnasium. He wanted to get them all in the photo.
Jackson's desire to get every player possible in a photo designed for him, and to mention the team's entire roster, is further evidence of the Aiken coach's family-oriented concept within the program.
For his efforts in leading Aiken to its deepest playoff run in several years, Jackson is The Augusta Chronicle's All-Area South Carolina Boys Basketball Coach of the Year.
"It was a testament to our kids putting in the work," Jackson said. "We didn't have the kind of year we wanted the year before. Our kids came in motivated. We wanted to put ourselves in the situation to have a great year.
I've never seen a guy win coach of the year if he didn't have good players and the type of players who buy in and do all the things it takes to be a winner. Our kids did that."
Aiken entered the season to whispers of this potentially being a standout year for the program. The Hornets boasted big men Devon Young and Isaiah Odom, while Jordan Lytes, Na'zae Baltimore, Calvin Mathis, Kevin Williamson and Maison Hall provided depth and talent in different ways.
Back-to-back close wins over North Augusta and South Aiken in late January were two big signs that the Hornets were for real.
After cementing their perfect Region 4-AAAA record at 8-0 with a 10-point win against North Augusta, they entered the playoffs with momentum and a rare No. 1 seed.
Aiken cruised to a playoff-opening win for its first postseason victory since 2013. After beating Westwood by six in the second round, the Hornets solidified their deepest run since 2012.
A two-point loss to Eastside in the third round ended a memorable run, but it didn't take away from one of Aiken's best seasons in years.
"We knew we had a good opportunity to have a good team, and we wanted to do everything we could to make sure that happened," Jackson said. "It didn't quite end the way we wanted it to, but I'm extremely proud of my kids, the growth and the kind of year that they had."
Before grabbing his players for the group photo, Jackson also made sure to mention one of his proudest moments as coach from this past season.
Eight players led the team in scoring for at least one game.
"They bought into the family concept. That got us a long way this year," Jackson said.