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Cavs have room to grow

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JF boys hoops preview

By Mike Forster

Should Paul Smith decide to buy some new uniforms for her boys basketball team, the JF head coach might want to reconsider changing from the current black and red color scheme.

Perhaps something in a green?

That’s the initial color of this squad of scrappy, but inexperienced Cavaliers.

If you don’t know who Smith is, he’s that guy who was openly weeping at JF’s graduation ceremony at the Vines Center last June.

They weren’t tears of joy.

Smith watched as his starting five waltzed off, sheepskin in hand.

Now, he has to start, nearly anew.  “Basically, we’re starting from scratch,” he acknowledged.

He’s got some solid building blocks, though.

Dakota Hall is the sole player who returns bearing a good amount of experience.

Hall (6’0”, 160 pounds) was one of the top seven players, in terms of minutes played, last season.

The other six are off to the next stages of their lives.

Hall, meanwhile has developed into the best perimeter shooter on the team.  He’s consistent and he’s got deceptive speed.  

A no-nonsense kind of player, Hall’s “work is paying off for him,” assessed his coach.

Something for which the Cavs have not lately been noted shows up in the form of Jason Stafford.

The junior stands 6’7”, which is at least a half foot taller than the post players the Cavs have fielded the past couple of seasons.

He’ll have to grow into the position and he’s somewhat slight of build, carrying 205 pounds on that frame.

So, Stafford won’t likely be a dominant player in the post. 

He could, however, develop into one as the season progresses, particularly given his quickness and diligence.

Speaking of diligent players, we’d be remiss if we were to overlook Marcus Jones.

The wing works as hard as anybody.  He showed his toughness and athletic skill as the Cav quarterback last fall.

On the court, he seems to use those traits to focus on rebounding and defense.

Jones (6’1”, 190) is also a natural leader: one who earns the respect of his fellow players through his dedication and effort.

Brian Wilcox is one, like Jones, who seems to specialize in defense and rebounding.  

Wilcox (6’0”, 195) should be able to add some muscle in the paint.  A member of last season’s varsity team, Wilcox adds a solid floor presence and is probably the best communicator on the team, per Coach Smith.

Another who seems to show some serious effort is point guard Jake Johnston.

Only a sophomore, Johnston (6’ 0”, 165) is a smart and tough player.  He’s the kind of pest you’d like to swat away, except he’d come back with a bigger flyswatter and nail you, instead.

“He’ll be a good one when all is said and done,” agreed Coach Smith.

Johnston is the type of player who is a joy to watch:  tenacious, even when things go wrong.

While the team is relatively young, there are some graybeards on it, who will be instrumental to any success.

In addition to Hall, Taylor Watson is the other senior.

Though an undersized post player (6’0”, 160), Watson brings a great level of enthusiasm, is resolute in his performance and is an extremely positive influence on the younger players.

Austin Clarke, a junior, bumps up from last year’s JV team.

Clarke (6’0”, 175) is one of the team’s better perimeter defenders and should see some serious minutes at the 2 or 3 positions.

Smith is carrying a dozen players on the team, any of which could step up over the course of the season.

“This is a very coachable team,” added Smith.  “It puts forth a lot of effort and is a very together group.”

Certainly the team will be more inside-dominated than it has in the past.

But, as in the past, you should be able to count on a Forest basketball team to give you a run for your money, even if it doesn’t have an impressive record.

Still, with the amount of inexperience on this team, Coach Smith is wary.

“I’ve never gone into a game not knowing what to expect like we are,” he said prior to the team’s season opener.

That could work to the Cavs’ advantage, in that the team might well be the surprise entrant of the Seminole.

It could also work to its detriment.  There are, after all, two sides to that coin.

The Seminole is expected, by many pundits, to turn into a tight race for the top.

E.C. Glass is expected to be included in that pack, if not at the head of it.

That the Hilltoppers beat JF 60-35 in the Seminole opener for both teams does not give the Cav faithful any warm fuzzies.

Nor do the non-district losses to Appomattox (44-39) and Staunton River (59-53), though those were by much closer margins.

Again, this is a team that is in need of significant seasoning (aging, as opposed to flavoring).

It is a near-certainty that the team will grow by leaps and bounds over the course of the season.

Or else, it’ll be a long one.