Thomas Dale Boys
By Jamal Davis
Last season the boys’ basketball team at Thomas Dale finished with a 9-13 record. While that may not be where it wanted to be, it was an improvement over the year before. The Knights hope to continue to improve this season under head coach Braxton Byerson, a former standout athlete at Thomas Dale himself. Unfortunately, the Knights will be forced to do so without the help of their best player from a season ago, point guard Elijah Gregory. Even without Gregory, Byerson believes his squad is well equipped to fill the void.
Projected Starting Five:
G James Taylor, Senior, 5-8
G Carlton “C.J.” Williams, Senior, 5-10
G Jalen Blackwell, Senior, 6-1
F Milton “M.J.” Coleman, Senior, 6-3
F Chris Ervin, Junior, 6-4
Backcourt: The backcourt for Thomas Dale this year will look much different without Elijah Gregory. However, the Knights feel they have players capable of filling the void in James Taylor and Carlton Williams. Also in the backcourt is their leading returning scorer from a season ago, Jalen Blackwell. Byerson spoke highly of Blackwell, saying he’s worked very hard this offseason and improved the efficiency of his jump shot.
Front court: In the frontcourt, coach Byerson has specific ideas for what he wants from his players each game. Milton Coleman and Chris Ervin are two of the players Byerson mentioned as impact players in the frontcourt. His focus for them this season is to keep the paint secure, rebound effectively to limit opponents to just one shot, and get the ball out after a rebound and run the break. His hope is that they will create mismatches which could give Thomas Dale some easier buckets on the offensive end of the floor.
Key to Success: Byerson said that his bench will be vital to any success the Knights have this season. He likes to rotate his players based on who is playing the best at the time, and in order to do that, bench production is essential. Togetherness and consistency are also going to be huge for the Knights this season. Every day in practice they stress being one unit and playing with the same energy and effort regardless of opponent. Byerson believes they are getting better with each passing day and hopes that trend continues well into the season.
Prognosis: The Knights play a Central District schedule, which is known to be very competitive year in and year out. With that said, Byerson believes that if the team can stay together, play hard every game, and follow the keys he provided for success, they could be a team to look out for this season.
Thomas Dale Girls
By Jamal Davis
Last season Thomas Dale’s girls’ basketball team fought to earn a 13-11 record on the season. After coming up short, last season’s playoffs to
Woodbridge, the Knights are looking to improve on a solid year. Despite losing two key players in point guard Aryianna Laday and power forward Jazlyn Eastling, Thomas Dale will be returning a good portion of its roster, and that could have a big impact on how the year turns out for Leon Gholson’s team.
Projected Starting Five:
G Jasmyne Pettus, Junior, 5-6
G Monay James, Junior, 5-7
G Destiny Callaham, Senior, 5-8
F Monique Jones, Senior, 5-10
F Kylah Webb, Junior, 6-0
Top Player: The Knights have a lot of talent on their team, but perhaps none are more talented than Monique Jones. She has improved her scoring average every season she’s played and she’s led the team in scoring every year since her freshman year. Jones looks to continue this trend in the right direction for the Knights this year in her senior season.
Backcourt: In this upcoming season the Knights will have to make do in their backcourt without their starting point guard from a year ago, Aryianna Laday. However, they have the talent and depth to continue on the success Laday had last season. They are returning a key player in Jasmyne Pettus, who looks to be a major contributor on both sides of the ball after earning a second-team All-Conference nod last season. The Knights have also added some young talent in sophomores Jessica Henderson, who is arguably the team’s best ball handler according to Gholson, and Daizjah Brown, who could push for playing time this year as well.
Frontcourt: The Knights will be getting back a couple of key contributors in junior Kylah Webb and sophomore Jasmine Hawkins. They also picked up a new young talent in freshman Jadah Webb, Kylah’s younger sister, senior Keyazia Taylor, who could have a breakout season, and Monique Jones, who led the team in scoring last year.
Key to Success: Gholson believes the key to success for his team this season lies in their ability to step up to the challenge and continually improve throughout the year. He knows every season is different and presents the team with new challenges to face.
Prognosis: The Knights are a solid team with a good mix of young talent and proven players at the high school level. If they can get their backcourt to continue what Laday started last season and their Jones-led frontcourt is as good as some think they might be, the Knights could present a serious threat to anyone they play this season. This will definitely be a team to watch out for in the Central Region this year.