New coach testing Saints early

Published 8:23 pm Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scrimmage: Nansemond-Suffolk point guard Chris Sharrett runs NSA’s offense during a scrimmage against Isle of Wight Friday at NSA. Sharrett made three of 10 Saint three-pointers during the scrimmage.

As Nansemond-Suffolk’s new boys basketball coach, Clint Wright is making some changes, as any new coach naturally would.

Compared to most coaching changes, though, the Saints largely are picking up where they left off from the last two seasons — and for good reason.

“Frankie (Chatman) is one of my mentors. A lot of what I try to do, I pattern it off what he does,” Wright said about NSA’s head coach for the past two seasons.

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Chatman accepted the head coach position at the Apprentice School. Wright comes to the Saints after being the JV boys coach and a varsity assistant coach, including during KF’s state championship season in 2008-09.

“The guys are already familiar with some of the plays, the same ideas and the same terminology,” Wright said.

One change already in effect Friday was adding scrimmages to the Saint schedule.

“Normally, NSA didn’t have scrimmages, they’d just go right into the first game of the season,” Wright said.

NSA welcomed Isle of Wight Academy for six periods of play Friday. The Saints will scrimmage Smithfield Tuesday and start their season Nov. 30 at Portsmouth Christian.

Wright inherits a team full of returners from Chatman. The upperclassmen on last year’s NSA squad were six juniors. That leads to a similarity Wright perhaps wishes he could change, as it means he doesn’t get much height on the court.

Harrison Spalding and Zach Taves top the Saint roster at 6-foot-3. Taylor Edens was NSA’s starting center last season as a 6-foot-1 sophomore.

What the Saints do have is a lot of ballhandlers, a number of good outside shooters and two shooting guards who have been good scorers for a couple seasons.

Harrison, a senior, and junior Breon Willie are versatile from three-point range to driving to the basket and creating a shot one-on-one.

“Breon and Harrison are our go-to players, but everyone who’s in the game has to be willing to take shots. I want us to play quick, fast, up-tempo. The most important thing is making games fun,” Wright said — another clear link to Chatman’s style and strategy.

Five different Saints combined to knock down 10 three-pointers in the six periods against IWA.

The Saints rushed the ball up the court and weren’t shy putting up shots through most of the scrimmage. The Saints and Chargers each claimed three periods on the scoreboard.

While fun and fast tempo are characteristics Wright wants for his new team, “structure is the first part of success, so it was good to see how we ran our offense and that we’re already getting the shots we need to get.”

Even when the Saints posted plenty of points, stopping opponents from doing the same was a big task. After making the VIS (Virginia Independent School) State Tournament in Chatman’s first year, with an older team led by four-year all-conference forward Issac Ballou, who’s now Marshall’s starting centerfielder, the Saints dropped to 5-19 last season.

“To have only four days of practice heading into today, this was great,” Wright said. “We’ve put in about 12 plays already and the guys were able to run all of them very efficiently.”

“We taped everything tonight, so we’ll spend part of Monday watching the video and going over the good and the not so good,” Wright said.