Many happy returns on the court at NSAPublished 10:02pm Thursday, November 21, 2013
Sweeping change and familiar faces simultaneously define the upcoming boys’ basketball season at Nansemond-Suffolk Academy.
David Mitchell serves as the baseball coach at NSA but was also the junior varsity boys’ basketball coach last season. This past May, the school’s athletic department asked him if he would be interested in making the move up to varsity.
“I was more than willing to accept that position,” he said.
Mitchell gained experience as a player in middle school at Nansemond-Suffolk under coach Ed Lowery. He also played in high school at Alliance Christian School, coached by Old Dominion University hall of fame player Bobby Hoffman.
Later returning to Alliance for a nine-year stint as athletic director, Mitchell oversaw basketball, continuing to be around the game.
He plans wholesale change to culture of the boys’ basketball program at NSA.
“We’re implementing and installing a whole new system from our middle school team all the way up to the varsity,” Mitchell said.
The new system will feature an aggressive style of defense. The Saints will execute full court traps, putting pressure on opposing teams in order to create turnovers and easy baskets.
The varsity team struggled heavily last year, going 1-26 overall. One of the reasons was a lack of height and depth on the roster, but now help has arrived.
“We’ve got 15 on the roster this year, and we were able to bring back some players who had played at NSA two or three years ago,” Mitchell said.
One of them is 6-foot-3-inch senior John Mobley, who was a first team all-conference lineman for NSA’s football team this year. He will play power forward for the Saints.
“He’ll be a key guy in our pressure defense,” Mitchell said. “He’ll be playing our ‘mad man’ (role).” The nickname refers to the player who pressures the inbound passer.
His football teammate, 6-foot-4-inch senior Matt Newhall, returns to the court this year, and already in the pre-season, Mitchell said, “I’ve been very impressed with him.” He will be a forward/center.
Also coming back after time away is NSA lacrosse star senior Zach Leitner. He can fit into the lineup at both guard and forward.
The team also benefits significantly from two transfer players.
Junior Drew Corrigan comes to Nansemond-Suffolk by way of Western Branch High School and looks to make an immediate impact on the team.
“Drew’s going to start at point guard for us,” Mitchell said.
Junior C.J. Patterson transferred from Palo Alto High School in California and made a difference on NSA’s football team. At 6 feet 4 inches, he will be a guard/forward.
The Saints only lose three seniors from last year’s team, and the primary standouts from that squad return.
Sophomore Morgan Wentz started last year and averaged about 10 points per game. He will play shooting guard this year, and Mitchell likes what he has seen of him in scrimmage and practice situations.
“He’s shown that floor general-type leadership,” the coach said.
Senior John Hogan has also been impressive. He will play center, a position he started at last year, averaging eight points per game. Fellow senior Steven Minter also started last year at forward, averaging seven points a game. He is recovering from an injured collarbone but will return to active status in a couple of weeks.
Mitchell highlighted some players who got some minutes last year off the bench and will be able to continuing helping the team this year: sophomore guard Logan Lokie, junior guard Punit Barot, senior guard Thomas King, junior forward Jack Johnson and junior guard/forward Alberto Smith.
“The style of play that we’re implementing is going to allow a lot of guys to play,” Mitchell said.
He said the Saints’ biggest challenge this year will be looking past present opponents to future conference games, something he aims to stop.
“Our main focus right now is Denbigh Baptist (Christian School) and to win that opener,” Mitchell said.
Denbigh hosts NSA tonight at 7 p.m.