Saints start well under Strothers

Published 9:07 pm Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Nansemond-Suffolk Academy boys’ basketball team is engaged in the process of learning the game this season under the tutelage of new head coach Lamont Strothers, and the Saints have exhibited signs that the lessons are sinking in.

After starting the season 1-2, NSA entered its winter break on a four-game winning streak.

New Nansemond-Suffolk Academy boys' basketball coach Lamont Strothers works with his players during a recent practice. The Saints are currently on a four-game winning streak.

New Nansemond-Suffolk Academy boys’ basketball coach Lamont Strothers works with his players during a recent practice. The Saints are currently on a four-game winning streak.

“I think we have the ability to do better than we did last year,” Strothers said, as the Saints went 8-16 last season.

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Strothers’ resume is filled with evidence that he knows exactly what he is talking about as he instructs his Nansemond-Suffolk players.

He played basketball professionally for 12 years, including about two years in the NBA. He was drafted in 1991 by the Golden State Warriors but found playing time with the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trail Blazers. Then, he played 10 years of pro hoops in Europe, where he began serving as a player assistant coach in 2000.

Strothers has 15 years of basketball coaching experience. He is the founder of the VA Hard2Guard Program that fields young Amateur Athletic Union teams, three of which he coaches.

He is entering his fourth year as a high school basketball head coach this year, having coached for one year at Bethel High School and two years at Warwick High School.

He had come to see the Saints play prior to this season because he has given independent training to both NSA graduate C.J. Patterson and his brother, freshman Matthew Patterson.

Nansemond-Suffolk director of boys’ athletics T.W. Johnson noted that last year’s Saints coach, Chris Prince, decided not to return due to having a schedule that was too crowded between his job as a real estate agent and coach.

During the search for a new coach, Strothers had spoken with Johnson, and Johnson visited the practice of one of Strothers’ AAU teams to see how he operated.

“He was impressed on the things we did in practice and the way I worked with the kids and trained the kids,” Strothers said.

NSA’s new coach is inheriting a team that graduated some key players after the 2014-15 season, including C.J. Patterson, Drew Corrigan and Keith Cooper.

The 2015-16 Saints feature four seniors, three sophomores, two juniors and two freshmen.

Strothers is relying on his seniors to provide on-court leadership, specifically forward Hunter Brinkley and guard Logan Lokie.

“I think one of the most vocal guys on the team is Hunter Brinkley,” Strothers said, adding that Lokie is starting to become more vocal. “Logan has the experience, and Hunter has the communication skills.”

The coach said Lokie pressures the ball well, noting, “He’s the guy that gets us motivated defensively.”

Strothers is also expecting leadership from junior guard Tavon Askew, who has experience with high-level AAU basketball.

The Saints have already gotten a lift early this season from freshman guard/forward Matthew Patterson, who is one of the NSA program’s up-and-comers.

Other up-and-coming players include sophomore point guard Erek Smith, sophomore forward Spencer Salmon, freshman forward Austin Eberwine and seventh-grader George Pettaway, who currently plays for the Saints junior varsity team.

Nansemond-Suffolk (5-2) hosts Appomattox Regional Governor’s School for the Arts and Technology on Jan. 5.