Bulldogs prepare for season

Published 11:57 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1 - Andrew Giermak/Suffolk News-Herald King’s Fork guard Jaylen White will be one of the senior leaders for the Bulldogs this season. King’s Fork went 17-6 and finished second the Southeastern District, but was knocked off by Lakeland in the first round of the district tournament, last season.

Overall, King’s Fork had a fine boys basketball campaign last winter. The Bulldogs, with just two seniors on the squad, claimed second in the Southeastern District season standings with 17 wins.

The final game of King’s Fork’s season was a bad note for the Bulldogs though, one that stays in Bulldog minds even through the nine months of the offseason.

Lakeland, seeded No. 7 in the district, upset the No. 2 Bulldogs on KF’s home floor to end KF’s season and propel the Cavaliers into the Eastern Region Tournament. The surprise came even though KF topped Lakeland by 16 points and 11 points in their meetings during the season and it ended the Bulldog streak of four straight regional tournament berths.


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“It carries over a lot, especially with the guys. It was a humbling experience for the guys to realize that’s what it can be like, especially at the time of the season when it can be one game and you’re done,” said King’s Fork head coach Joshua Worrell.

Worrell’s the only coach the Bulldogs have had going into their eighth season as a program. Worrell built the Bulldogs from a winless first season to the heights of winning the state championship with a 31-1 record in 2008-09, the fifth year of King’s Fork’s existence.

“And to have the loss be to a Suffolk school, it hurt a little more,” Worrell said.

“We were way more successful than people thought we were going to be, but people judge you by your last game,” he said.

The drive to improve the district record and return to the regional or even state stage was key to all of the work, camps and leagues the Bulldogs have been in since last season ended.

The Bulldogs finished 17-6 with two seniors on their squad. Three players in this year’s senior class are leaders, Worrell says, even before KF officially takes the floor in a little more than a week.

“Zach (Johnson), C.J. (Hailes) and Jaylen (White) have really become leaders for me,” Worrell said.

White and Hailes head up the Bulldog backcourt, where the Bulldogs have plenty of depth and talent.

Johnson, at 6-foot-5, leads the Bulldogs in the paint, where they didn’t have as much depth.

“They’ve been doing things for me no leaders have done from day one through now,” Worrell said.

Johnson largely sat the bench two years ago as a sophomore. With the graduation of Davante Gardner, now a power forward for Marquette, and Jay Copeland, now a power forward at North Carolina Central, Johnson suddenly became KF’s leading post player as a junior and averaged 15.6 points and 9.6 rebounds a game.

King’s Fork has a tough schedule right out of the blocks. The Bulldogs face Nansemond River, Oscar Smith and Great Bridge during their first five district games. The Warriors won the Southeastern season title last year. Oscar Smith won the district tournament crown and Great Bridge finished fourth.

The Bulldogs also meet perennial power Petersburg in the King’s Fork Basketball Showcase in their second game of the season, on Saturday, Dec. 3 in The Kennel. Petersburg and King’s Fork last met in the semifinals of KF’s state championship run.

“If we’re not ready to play, it’s going to be difficult and it could be a difficult road back,” Worrell said.

“We’ll see how we’ve improved and how we have to get better. It’ll make us better in the long run,” he said.