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Staunton River boys' basketball preview

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Tough road for the Eagles?

By Mike Forster

The fans of Staunton River will get their first look at the 2008-09 Golden Eagles this Friday night.  That’s when Staunton River hosts Bassett for the team’s first game in its new gym.

It’ll also be “White-out Night”, so the place should be rollicking.  White-out Night is a new twist on the traditional “Black-out Night.” 

New gym, new tradition, new team.

Put the emphasis on “new” when discussing this team.

This team appears younger, more inexperienced and even shorter than last year’s team.

That’s not to say that it will do worse than the 3-20 mark the Eagles posted last season.

In order to do so, this team will have to grow up fast.  In a hurry.  As in yesterday.

There are some nice building blocks that Head Coach Chris Carr has to work with.

Key players from last season’s team that were lost to graduation include James Bell, Mike Lynch and Kenny Montgomery.   That trio represents a lot of lost energy from a team that was characterized by its hard-nosed hustle.

This year’s version starts with Wesley Gates, who transferred from Liberty at the start of the school year.  

Gates, an all-district second teamer in football (defensive back), will play point guard on the hardwoods.  “We’ll go as he goes,” assessed Carr. 

The 5’ 9” junior is fast, with tremendous leaping abilities an basketball smarts.  “He knows our system fairly well,” said Carr.

Pairing up in the backcourt with Gates will be Geary Cunningham.  The senior may not be blessed with great height (5’ 7”), but he brings a whole bunch of speed to the mix.  Last spring, Cunningham clocked a time of 11.44 seconds in the 100-yard dash en route to a third-place finish in Region III.  “He has a lot of heart and hustle,” said Carr.

Brandon Adkins, will play at wing, despite only standing 5’ 8”.  “He might be the smartest basketball player we’ve had,” remarked Carr.  “If there’s a pass to be made, he knows where it goes and why.”

Bryan Dillon, one of the best shooters on the team, will see a lot of action at the shooting guard slot.

Chris Eggleston, only a sophomore, is a virtual giant at 5’10”, compared with much of the rest of the team.

Eggleston was a solid contributor on the varsity last season, getting some seasoning at a young age.

The plan is to have Gates, Eggleston and Cunningham rotate among the point guard and wing positions.  Adkins and Dillon will rotate at shooting guard.  

The post will feature Al Dillon, who is still recuperating from a leg injury he suffered during the football season. 

Dillon, 6’ 1”, is an all-around athlete, one who will give his all regardless of the situation.  He is obviously a team leader for the Eagles.

Also seeing some time in the paint will be Ben See.  At 6’ 2”, he does bring some good size to the mix.  While he got some solid minutes last season, his biggest tests should come this year.

One hope for the Eagles is the progress of David Persinger.  The 6’ 10” transfer from Alleghany is a work in progress.  Reports on the big fellow are that he’s in very good shape and has been working hard.  “For a big guy, he gets up and down the floor quite well,” remarked Carr.

The rest of the team is still to be determined, most likely over the course of the initial, non-district games.

Just as they did two years ago, the Eagles will have to rely on a speed game to be competitive, according to Carr.

What he finds most disconcerting, however, is how his team will match up height-wise with the rest of the Seminole.  

Even Jefferson Forest, which is notoriously undersized, should tower over the Eagles.

“We can guard the 6’2” kid,” opined Carr.  “It’s the 6’ kid being guarded by our 5’6” kid (that concerns me).”

The other thing that concerns Carr is the impending move of Staunton River into the Blue Ridge District.  This is the team’s last year in the Seminole.

The Blue Ridge teams play more of a complex style of basketball, where the Seminole teams tend to overwhelm opponents by their pure athletic talents.

Also, while the Blue Ridge shows a lot of zone defenses, the Seminole is mostly a man-to-man shop.

Carr has started moving his program toward a Blue Ridge style, which leaves the team in a sort of limbo.

The youthful inexperience of the team only should exacerbate that situation.

Finally, as the new gym wasn’t supposed to be ready until early next year, the schedule is top-heavy with early season away games.  

Whether the Eagles come limping into the second half of the season as a result, is something to keep an eye on.

No matter what the record, Eagle basketball is always enjoyable, given the scrappiness and up-tempo pace at which the team plays.

“It will test our skill and knowledge of the game,” said Carr of the schedule.  “Athletically, we can compete with anybody.

The big test of what this team is made of comes when it hits Liberty on Dec. 15.