River welcomes Aussie guests tonight

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2006

Coach Ed Young’s Nansemond River Warriors have a most unique season opening game tonight at 7:30.

Their opponent will be Melbourne, Australia’s Caulfield Grammar School and the JV boys, varsity girls and then varsity boys teams will square off in a tripleheader at NRHS beginning at 4 p.m.

Caulfield is the second-largest independent school in Australia with 2,800 students among four campuses.

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Basketball is a hugely popular sport throughout Australia and Caulfield is among the strongest high school teams, so while this will be a cordial competition tonight for Nansemond River’s three teams, &uot;competition&uot; will still be the major word.

Last season, Caulfield’s girls team won the Championship Division Gold Medal in the Australian National School’s Basketball Championship and the boys team finished with a silver medal in Division 1.

&uot;Traditionally they always have some of the best players in Australia,&uot; said Young on Tuesday.

&uot;We know they have a couple 6’6&uot; kids and a 6’3&uot; guard who is very good.&uot;

Usually the Warriors have a decent amount of tape, or at least past experience, to go on for their district or regional competition.

This is a strange position for Young’s team, although he did have an idea that Nansemond River principal Thomas McLemore wouldn’t quite go along with.

&uot;I asked my principal if I could go over to Melbourne and scout them.

I don’t know why he wouldn’t let me go over there for a week or two.&uot;

Generally speaking, Young has prepared his players for a few things he’s sure Caulfield will put on display tonight.

&uot;We know they will be very strong fundamentally and they will probably be a very good shooting team.

&uot;We know they will not be a team that has been poisoned by American basketball and some of our bad habits.

NR junior guard Andre Jones, a first-team All-Southeastern District a season ago and a major Division 1 collegiate prospect, knows this will be a big challenge for the Warriors.

&uot;You know they aren’t coming all the way over here to lose.&uot;

Senior Mark Brown said, &uot;We know they are going to be good inside and they have great players, we’ll have to focus on the inside more.&uot;

Prior to tonight’s game, which is Caulfield’s only stop in Virginia, they will have already played teams in New Jersey, Maryland and Washington, D. C.

Before returning home, Caulfield still has stops in North Carolina, New York and California.

Part of the purpose of the tour is to expose their athletes to American colleges, so Caulfield will also be visiting Duke, North Carolina and Fresno State.

In the last few years, the girls program at Caulfield has produced two NCAA Division 1 athletes; Chantella Perera (Senior, Fresno St.) and Christina Fox (Freshman, Oklahoma St.) and the boys program has sent players to Div. 2 schools.

&uot;The only thing better than this would be us going there to play,&uot; said Young, &uot;and we’ve been invited, we have an out-standing offer, but money for the airfare is the biggest problem.&uot;

While this is opening night for the Warriors, the Lady Warriors have two tight games, a four-point win versus Franklin and an eight-point loss at Churchland, already in the bag.

The JV boys contest starts the evening at 4 p.m.

The girls varsity game is set for 5:30 and the boys varsity game is set for 7:30.

Tickets are $5 at the door.

In addition to the games, an international gift exchange will be held just before the 7:30 game.

Beyond tonight, Nansemond River’s boys team is setting out after a sixth consecutive Southeastern District regular season crown.

Three extremely talented Warriors, Andre Jones, Nick Wright and Mark Brown return to the starting lineup for Young; but overall, seven of his 14 players are new to the varsity team.

&uot;As much as I like to use the bench, that will be critical, especially early in the year,&uot; said Young.

Six-foot-five senior Paul Walters is expected to start at the power forward spot and 6’0&uot; sophomore Brandon Newsome will take the guard position previously held by Vaughn Wilson, now a scholarship player for The Citadel.

&uot;We probably won’t designate a true point guard,&uot; said Young when asked how tough it will be to replace Wilson.

&uot;Vaughn was the best in the district, probably the best in the region.

Brandon will handle it some, Andre can certainly do it, and we’ll have Mark handle the point a lot, too.

&uot;I have no problem with a big man bringing the ball up the floor,&uot; said Young.

NR went undefeated through the district regular season and the SED tournament last season and NR has a 25-game regular season winning streak in the district, but Young nor his players have made that a goal to start the season.

&uot;I think the talent in the league is much closer this year.

I don’t think anyone is going undefeated this year,&uot; said Young.

&uot;Deep Creek could be the most talented team, Indian River and Oscar Smith are both right there with a lot of great athletes, and King’s Fork will beat some people they aren’t supposed to,&uot; said Young.

&uot;Our goal is not any of those streaks, it’s two nights in Churchland and getting into the state tournament.&uot;

&uot;We have to take it one game at a time,&uot; said Jones, &uot;sometimes all the attention is good, but sometimes it’s just played out.&uot;

Brown, who at 6’5&uot; can play any position on the floor, said, &uot;there are a lot of good teams in the district who want to come at us.

Everyone has something to prove versus us.&uot;

&uot;My role is to bring everyone together,&uot; said Brown, &uot;I’m trying to get the younger guys to learn their roles and just bring everyone on the same page.&uot;

Even though their coach is a little concerned about the team’s depth, Jones and Brown mentioned a couple new additions, transfer Quinton McDuffie and JV call-up Austin Wallace, as players to watch.

About McDuffie, Jones said, &uot;everyone thought we lost that part of the team when T. J. (Williams) left.&uot;

Williams was the starting power forward for NR for the last two seasons and he’s now a freshman on Virginia Wesleyan’s team.

Wallace, Brown and Jones both described as a &uot;get in your face player&uot; who brings defense and intensity to the court.