Warriors start underdog year off well

Published 10:25 pm Thursday, December 4, 2014

This season has all the makings of being an unusual one for Nansemond River High School’s boys’ basketball team. However, the Warriors started the year with something that is anything but unusual for them — a win.

They defeated host Grassfield High School on Tuesday by the score of 63-49.

“For us to get this is nice,” coach Ed Young said.

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He noted this year’s Warriors team is one of the most inexperienced he has had in more than two decades of coaching high school basketball.

It lost the top 10 players from last year’s 19-4 team, most due to graduation, but expected stars Scott Spencer, a 6-foot-6-inch senior, and Kevin Davis, a 6-foot-5-inch sophomore, transferred to other schools.

“This is truly a rebuilding year,” Young said.

He noted that nine of his players were playing their first varsity game on Tuesday.

The Warriors’ returning players, seniors Paul Hall and Aaron Parker and junior Darius Jones, played limited minutes last year.

“Those kids have to step up to big-time roles,” Young said, noting he will bring Hall off the bench because he can give the offense a spark.

Jones is in his third year on the team and looks to be its starting point guard. He had eight points, four assists and three steals on Tuesday.

Parker, in his second year on the team, is a defensive stopper and contributed six points, four assists and two steals.

In addition to lacking experience, Nansemond River lacks size, as 6-foot-3-inch, 170-pound senior forward Matt Allmond is the tallest player on the team.

He had 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the floor, with five rebounds and three blocks. He did this despite sitting out the entire second quarter and half of the third quarter due to foul trouble.

Young said Allmond actually had a good chance of making the varsity team last year, but was then held back in development when he came down with appendicitis.

This year, “he’s a kid that we’ll look toward a lot, besides our three returnees,” Young said.

Josh Stills and Randall Dixon are 6-foot-2-inch juniors that will serve as inside players for the Warriors.

“They’ll probably both start half the games this year,” Young said.

Junior guard Josh Covington shows promise and displayed it on Tuesday, producing a 20-point game off the bench on 8-for-14 shooting. Twelve of those 20 points came in the fourth quarter alone when he went 5-of-6 from the floor.

Junior shooting guard Jordan Velasquez only played four minutes against the Grizzlies, but Young said he and his staff feel like Velasquez could be pretty good.

Sophomore Nate Foster started on Tuesday, and freshman Gerard Stringer came off the bench and got 10 minutes.

“Those are two youngsters that we want to build for the future,” Young said. “We’re trying to get a solid 10-guy rotation.”

While the Warriors may not be able to do things it has been known for near the basket, they have some new powers in the field. They went 23-for-50 on Tuesday, including 9-for-15 from three-point range.

“We’re not known as a three-point-shooting team in the past, but we can do that now,” Young said.

Knowing the struggles his young team will face, Young said he does not want to set the bar extremely high to something unattainable. Nevertheless, the focus to win every game will remain the same.

“We’ve just got to get our young kids experience,” he said. “We don’t have an easy schedule. Our conference is loaded this year.”

Additionally, the Warriors play eight of their first 11 games on the road.

“I kind of really relish the underdog role,” Young said. “People don’t know what’s in our heart.”

Nansemond River (1-0, 0-0) visits Great Bridge High School on Friday and hosts Indian River High School on Tuesday for its home opener.