Warriors prepare for basketball season

Published 7:00pm Saturday, May 11, 2013

By Matthew Hatfield
Correspondent

While the 2013-2014 basketball campaign won’t get underway until November, the Nansemond River Warriors are already taking steps to improve on last season’s 17-8 finish that ended in a 64-58 loss to Landstown in the opening round of regionals.

This past week, the Warriors were among 12 teams, eight of which made it to the Eastern Region Tournament last February, participating in the Maury Spring/Summer League. Three games take place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night into late June, concluding with a tournament that will crown a champion.

It’s the second year in a row Nansemond River is playing in the league, and it marks the beginning of a busy off-season for the Warriors.

“It gives us an early start on seeing which veterans are going to step up with a chance to get to the next level, and a lot of J.V. kids start finding out where they fit in, if they can fit in, to how we do things. This is the one time where we really don’t emphasize winning, although we’d like to win, since they keep score. But it’s really zeroing in on player development,” Warriors coach Ed Young said.

“Are they showing us things we’re going to need five, six months from now, what the holes in their games are? This is where you work on individual game, but at the same time you get to play against real competition, real officials and there’s pressure there. You can’t mimic that in workouts and practice sessions. We have done this for a while now, and it’s been beneficial to our program, so we’ll continue to do this moving forward.”

Between now and the end of July, the Warriors will play close to 50 games in various summer-league and team camp settings, including a trip to Pennsylvania in the summer to play in the prestigious Hoop Group Team Camp.

During that time, Young and his coaches can evaluate each player’s strengths and weaknesses on the squad.

“We want to see kids individually getting better, skill-wise and confidence-wise,” Young said. “We’re hoping they can kind of play the role we’re projecting from them, and right now we’re actually watching them define their roles to us.”

“We’re a team that likes to play a lot of people and we’re very big on making depth happen,” he added. “That’s something we’ll continue to do, because it’s about competition, and I think that brings out the best in kids. They know nothing is going to be handed to them.”

In the first game at Maury on Wednesday night, Nansemond River fell in a tight battle to Green Run, 43-40. They bounced back in the next contest, defeating Southeastern District foe Grassfield, 62-45. Guard Devon Oakley led the way with 26 points and center Daniel Wallace chipped in 12.

Wallace and Oakley are two of the key returnees for next season, along with guard Khalil Carroll and Scott Spencer, a rising junior.

“They all got decent minutes last year, and I expect them to take their numbers up higher next season. If each kid takes his game up a level, doesn’t have to be a superstar and everybody shares their weight, I think we have enough returning talent to be right in the mix in the new conference,” Young said.

Rising senior forward Adrian Coleman, who averaged around five minutes per game on varsity last year, showed flashes and solid fundamental moves in the post. Guard Darius Jones, who’ll be a sophomore next winter, was steady in spots at the point.

The Warriors have nine players who will be seniors next season, though there’s no guarantee all will be on the team come November. In the case of Oakley, Wallace and Carroll, they will be asked to provide leadership and live up to the standards set by previous standouts in their final season in the program.

“I told them all individually that I’m looking at them right now as seniors and no longer juniors. I judge seniors very differently than underclassmen, since there’s more expected. (I’ve got) shorter patience with them, because they’ve been in the program and should know what to do. To me, a senior has to be a top-seven kid. Without question, they have to produce more,” Young said.

Nansemond River’s next summer league test will come against host Maury at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

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