We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.
The L.C. Bird boys’ basketball program is no stranger to a challenge but the remarkable thing is the Skyhawks success amid those challenges.
In 2011 and 2016, L.C. Bird knocked on the door with state final appearances. While the Skyhawks came up short, a deep and talented roster has a common goal in 2017.
“Our goal is to win our last game,” said L.C. Bird coach Troy Manns.
Bird is armed with at least six players – Jaylen Dillard, Mario Haskett, Cam Henry, Jyles Webster, Johquin “Pinky” Wiley and Tyrek Williams – who will play college basketball at some level.
More importantly, they play perhaps the most difficult schedule in the state.
Two players from the group Haskett (Harvard) and Webster (Concord-W.Va.) are committed. Wiley (Campbell, James Madison, Longwood, Norfolk State) and Williams (Longwood, Mount St. Mary’s) have Division I offers, while Dillard and Henry are also potential Division I prospects.
L.C. Bird has two talented big-men in Webster (6-5) and Williams (6-9) and four swingmen/guards in Dillard, a shooter; Henry, a Swiss Army knife; Haskett, an extremely athletic lock-down defender; and Wiley, a heady point guard who can score in bunches.
“When one of us gets going, everyone else gets going,” explained Henry, who had a team-high 16 points in Saturday’s 64-58 victory over Trinity Episcopal.
The Titans, who came in with an impressive 18-0 record, were a tough opponent on a long list of tough opponents.
Along with Trinity, L.C. Bird has defeated Woodside, Salem (Virginia Beach), Bethel, Varina, and defending 3A State Champion I.C. Norcom.
Those teams have a combined record of 85-19. Four of those games were on the road in the 757 area code – Woodside, Salem, Bethel, and Norcom. Simply put, L.C. Bird will play anyone, anywhere.
“The Norcom game gave the guys a lot of confidence,” Manns explained. “It’s a tough environment playing there, and they’ve won multiple state championships.”
Coming up, L.C. Bird will play two more premium opponents. First they play Landstown Jan. 30 at the Virginia Preps Classic, and the Skyhawks will face host John Marshall in the Coaches for the Cure benefit tournament Feb 4.
Outside the aforementioned games, the Skyhawks have defeated their other seven opponents by an average margin of 32.4 points. Those opponents are Clover Hill, Freedom, George Wythe, James River, Manchester, Matoaca and Midlothian.
The common denominator in those victories has been defense; Manns and his players look to do that before anything else.
“We want to defend,” Dillard said. “We get out and defend. Then we like to get out and run in transition.”
With the win over Trinity, L.C. Bird improved to 13-0 and filled the gymnasium to capacity.
Everyone knows that offense sells tickets, and offense also wins games, but for the 2016-17 edition of the Skyhawks, defense will win a championship.
Just ask the Titans how good that defense can be.