Saints must grow up together to improve

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

Breon Willie is one of two seniors on Nansemond-Suffolk’s basketball squad heading into the season, NSA’s second under head coach Clint Wright. Willie was one of the top Saint scorers last season. The Saints went 7-18 last winter.

As Clint Wright enters his second season in charge of Nansemond-Suffolk’s boys basketball team, everything about the Saints is young. Even the team manager is young.

“Jack’s the first true manager I’ve had, so I’m excited about that,” Wright said while the varsity Saints warmed up for an evening practice.

Fourth-grader Jack Hutchison is the team manager. He came to Wright and volunteered for the duty.

Email newsletter signup

“We’re trading good grades. As long as he does that, he’ll be on the bench with us,” Wright said.

The team manager has to be at every practice, too.

“His parents come pick him up about 7 p.m. when we get done each night,” Wright said.

Wright, coming to NSA after being King’s Fork’s junior varsity head coach, led the Saints to an improved record last season, 7-18 overall, but only two wins in Tidewater Conference competition.

Only two Saints, senior guard Breon Willie and senior forward A.J. Hicks, are returning varsity players this season.

Wright knows he has a young team. He feels he has an experienced group to work with in some ways, though.

Nine sophomores and a freshman graduated from last year’s Saint junior varsity team to Wright’s squad as a group.

“They’ve played a lot of games together, from JJV to JV to summer leagues. These kids have played a lot of quality basketball,” Wright said.

“I watched this team numerous times last year before varsity games. This group has height and overall ability. The future seems bright,” Wright said.

Getting the varsity newcomers ready for the new level of play is no less a challenge, though. Senior shooting guard Breon Willie has been a leading Saint scorer for two seasons already. He has to be a team leader as well, on a squad with 11 underclassmen.

“Breon’s come into the season with a very positive attitude. I’m looking for big things from him,” Wright said.

“Now I have to explain stuff sometimes, just like seniors used to do for me,” Willie said.

“Playing hard, practicing hard and playing together, if we do that, I think we’ll have a successful season,” he said.

Height on the court has been a rare commodity for the Saints in recent seasons. Even during NSA’s last trip to the VIS (Virginia Independent Schools) State Tournament in 2007-08, the main Saint post player was 6-foot-2 Isaac Ballou. Last season, NSA’s lineup was often five guards, with one or two of the guards having to do their best inside.

“This year we’ll have more of a conventional offense. We’re looking at playing with three guards and two big guys,” Wright said. “We have young players who can play the four and five positions. We can do a lot more.”

The Saints have two home games to open their season, on Nov. 29 against Portsmouth Christian and Dec. 1 against StoneBridge. From there, NSA doesn’t have another home game until 2012. NSA’s pre-conference slate includes two-game tournaments at The Steward School in Richmond, at Christchurch in Saluda and Tidewater Academy in Wakefield.



Art show features husband, wife

8.20.10 cartoon