ABOVE: Meadowbrook point guard Isaiah Richardson moves with the ball. (Rob’s DigiPix)
Knights focused on team building
With a team that struggled to a 7-16 record last year, Thomas Dale High’s head coach Braxton Byerson is bent on improving the
“We are putting an even bigger emphasis on ‘team’ this year,” Byerson said.
“Chemistry and putting the right guys together on the floor will help us win.”
The Knights had one player head to the next level in Amari Brown, who’s currently on the roster at Berkeley State University (West Virginia). Key returners include Jack Brockwell, Michael Spragley and Malik Lamb.
Byerson said this year’s team is exciting because he feels it has no ceiling.
The roster is versatile from top to bottom and has grown strong in the face of adversity.
Brockwell and Neal Phillips will highlight the front court on a guard-heavy squad. Byerson considers Brockwell a team leader and said he developed his game greatly in the off-season. Phillips is a skilled rebounder who can score both inside and out.
Senior Malik Lamb is a guard with good court vision and can kick it out to an open shooter after driving to the basket. He is also a skilled finisher.
Dae’mon McCoy, Miles Phillips
Thomas Dale’s season heavily depends on how well they can gel as a team, playing off the versatility that Byerson spoke about. Chemistry is a must for the Knights to improve.
Monarchs under new leadership
Meadowbrook High finished with a 14-13 record last season, and this year will usher in a new head coach: Sam Bryant.
Former coach Jake Oliver is now at Mills Godwin after guiding the program through six successful seasons. Bryant will look to improve on what his predecessor did.
“Last year created an opportunity for my coaching staff and players to learn to understand that it gave us building blocks to success — one block at a time,” Bryant said. “There were missed opportunities from last year and previous seasons. We are building a team that will learn to do better than everyone else at everything on and off the court.”
Two Meadowbrook athletes ascended to the junior college ranks: Javion Patterson (Richard Bland) and Tyrone Coley (Butler Community College). However, a trio of leaders returns in Isaiah Richardson, Alfonzo Mason
Up front, Ezekiel Edwards, Sincere Clarke
Clarke can clean the glass and provide a scoring touch, with Edwards being a shooter and Clarke being a versatile option able to play four positions.
Meadowbrook started the year with a bang with a big win over a talented Hopewell squad. Bryant said that continuing that success will depend heavily on rebranding the program – creating a different culture for the student-athletes and developing skills on and off the court that will lead to college scholarships.
Skyhawks return size, shooting to starting five
The L.C. Bird Skyhawks posted another typically strong year, finishing at 18-3 last year. Coach Troy Manns is looking forward to having an experienced group of returning players, despite the loss of three players to the college ranks.
Forward Chris Ford is at Norfolk State, guard Rahim Jenkins is at Anderson University and Tyrek Williams is being looked at by several prep schools and will be on a roster somewhere soon.
L.C. Bird has several players on the college radar, headlined by two Division I prospects: guard Jamon Battle, who has over 20 Division I offers of the mid-major variety, and Mack Burgett, who after a growth spurt had his own recruiting explosion that’s landed him on the radars of multiple Division I schools himself.
Three seniors headline this group, starting with Battle, who will play as a wing. His size (6-5) enables him to move between the front and backcourt. Battle’s athleticism allows him to score at will, slashing to the basket. He’s also got the size and frame to rebound and post up smaller guards. Burgett, once just a shooter, has evolved into a skilled player on and off the ball and is a double-double threat. Maliek Conaway will also be in the rotation. Two underclassmen, sophomore Chris Trinidad (6-5) and freshman Keyontae Lewis (6-7), are intriguing based on size alone, but are developing skills.
In the backcourt, senior Corbin Slayton returns as the leading scorer. His leadership skills should be on display as well as his shooting.
Junior point guard Tyler Henderson, whom Manns called a “floor general,” and freshman Amari Gray could make an impact as well.
For Manns, his players and coaching staff, the goal is to build on the tradition that has been cultivated at L.C. Bird. This includes playing a
Warriors return four of five starters
Mataoca Warriors coach Michael Knight believes his team underperformed last year and very early into the 2018-19 season, and cited a need to finish games. However, he remains hopeful that the work put in during the offseason and in practice will translate into more victories and an improvement over last season’s 10-12 mark.
The Warriors return nearly every key contributor from a year ago outside of Jarrod Mosby, who was a valuable frontcourt piece. He’s playing football at Averett University in Danville.
Seniors Tyrese Tingle and Jalen Hargrove are back, in addition to a top scoring option in junior Kaleb Coleman.
Tingle, a four-year starter, can play inside and out. He and Hargrove are possibly one of the most experienced one-two punches in the front court in the area. Hargrove is “nails tough,” Knight said, and one of the better local rebounders. Vadell Hawkins is another option. He has good size and can play inside and out.
Coleman, the team’s underrated point guard, can put the ball in the basket and is perhaps one of the best guards in the area. Moses Franklin, a senior, provides experience and a knack for shooting from outside. Sophomore Bryson
Knight said consistency is the key to Matoaca’s success this season. He believes his team can play with anyone if they exhibit the consistency he’s looking for.