Rebuilding Saints will be ready to run

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Franklin Chatman knows he’s got a rebuilding job on his hands with Nansemond-Suffolk’s boys basketball team this season.

Chatman led the Saints to an 11-12 record in the regular season last year, his first as coach of the Saints, and NSA reached the state tournament.

The biggest reason for the rebuilding job is the loss of Isaac Ballou. Ballou is now at Marshall with a baseball scholarship, but Ballou also led NSA’s basketball team. Ballou was an all-conference forward and led the Saints in scoring each year since his freshman year.

Chatman nicknamed Ballou, “Mr. Everything” and said, “a player like Ballou comes around to a school once every 10 years.”

The task ahead is even more than losing one great player though as Chatman has no seniors and two juniors on this year’s squad and only two returning players who spent all of last season on the varsity team.

“All of the kids are working hard and that’s all you can ask them to do,” said Chatman.

While a lot has changed since last season, Chatman’s philosophy about the team hasn’t changed at all.

“We’re still going to play hard, play smart, have fun and be a family,” said Chatman.

Chatman, who previously coached at Nansemond River and started what became a streak of seven straight Southeastern District regular season championships, isn’t changing much about how he wants his Saints to play either. Even with a young team, he feels his new players fit into his plans well.

“We’re looking at getting up a whole lot more shots. We’re smaller and we know that, so we’re going to have to be very good, very disciplined, on defense and then take as many shots as we can,” said Chatman.

Other than Ballou’s ability to drive and score in the paint, last year’s team often lived with the three-point shot and pressing defense is always what Chatman has put into place.

The two returning “veterans” are junior guard Harrison Spalding and sophomore wing Breon Willie.

Spalding played major minutes, sometimes at point guard, last season and added important scoring to take a little of opponents attention off of Ballou. At 6-foot-3, Spalding is the tallest player for the Saints.

Willie played more and more as last season progressed. By the time of NSA’s state tournament game in Roanoke, Willie was a key offensive player, especially from the three-point arc.

Chris Sharrett is a partial newcomer for Chatman. Late last season, as NSA’s varsity roster was hurt by injuries, Sharrett was called up from the JV team and pressed right into action. Chatman expects Sharrett to take up the starting point guard job.

“It really should be a lot of fun and the good thing is the kids really want to learn. A lot of this year is going to be about teaching them the game,” said Chatman.

NSA’s schedule includes tournaments at Christchurch, St. Christopher’s and Tabb in December where Chatman expects, and wants, his team to face tough competition. NSA will start at home against Portsmouth Christian on Friday, then have nine straight road or neutral-court games.

“We believe the more teams we play that are really tough, the tougher we’ll be,” said Chatman.

“We want to compete and win, lose or draw, we’re going to compete. Hopefully some of the football state championship will rub off on us,” said Chatman.