Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team hopes to utilize defense and a strong presence in the post to continue the rebuilding process in 2015-2016.
Gone from last year’s 6-16 squad are leading scorer and rebounder Winston Giles as well as Daniel Bowman, Zach Cochran and Logan Beamer. And while the Cavaliers struggled mightily at times a year ago, the team showed improvement throughout the season and was able to be competitive due to tough defense. Head coach Brad Hawks hopes that formula will help Carroll surprise some folks this year.
“We will be as big and as long as anybody we play this year. And we have some pieces to be more successful. There’s a lot of teaching going on right now and finding out where we can play certain places. We’re just trying to build on last year with the young guys,” Hawks said. “We are going to play differently than we have played in a while. We are going to have to slow it down. Our advantage this year will be inside, throwing big bodies at people and trying to go to the post every possession, at least for a touch. And our guards, we are just looking for solid play, hit the open shot, and of course, defend well.”
Carroll showed some encouraging signs Nov. 25 in a scrimmage with Bassett and Fort Chiswell. The Cavaliers earned a one-point victory over Bassett in a three-quarter scrimmage and won a quarter, lost a quarter, and tied a quarter with Fort Chiswell.
“It was a very competitive scrimmage. Bassett is big and athletic and we got up big on them early. We let them come back, but beat them in a one-minute overtime,” Hawks said. “We were very competitive with Fort Chiswell, too.”
Carroll certainly will have ample size with athletic 6-5 senior Jordan Combs leading the way. He will have plenty of help down low with a trio of juniors, 6-5, 230-pound Garret Haynes, 6-3 Derek Case and 6-3 Landon Williams.
“I think we have four guys that can just beat on people down there. Bassett started two kids that were 6-7 and Jordan Combs just owned the first quarter. We got up 19-10 on them and he probably had 11 points. He is playing within himself, but being more aggressively offensively. He is a tough matchup because he can set up and hit a three and he’s quick enough to go around people and finish inside,” Hawks said. “And Garret Haynes is just the opposite. He’s a beater and banger inside and we will rely on him for the dirty work along with Derek Case and Landon Williams.”
Besides Combs, returners from last year’s team who saw considerable playing time are guards Noah and Micah Johnson and forward Caden Hodges. A brother duo at guard, the Johnsons are quick and are expected to contribute even more this season. Noah is a senior, while Micah is a junior point guard. “Noah has been shooting the ball really well and Micah has changed his body a lot,” Hawks said. “Micah is more stocky now and he plays real low to the ground. He’s fast and very strong.”
A 6-3 junior, Hodges is probably the most athletic player on the team as attested by the “nasty dunk” he threw down against Fort Chiswell. More will also be expected out of Hodges now that he has a year of varsity experience under his belt.
“He is a kid that can hit his head on the rim he’s so athletic. He will be relied on to rebound and do the dirty work, but he can slash and shoot the ball, too,” Hawks said. “He’s come along. He still has got to grow into his body and we’ve got to get him a little stronger, but he runs and jumps real well.”
Seniors Forrest Johnson and Austin Edwards are also back from last year’s varsity team and will both play valuable roles for the Cavaliers.
“Forrest has really changed his body over the last year. He is going to do some of the dirty work, help us defend, rebound and be solid and make open shots,” Hawks said. “And Austin Edwards is the best teammate anybody could ever hope for. He is a rah-rah guy, cheers on everybody and is just a perfect teammate in my book.”
Newcomers to the varsity team include Brogan Bowman, Chase Robinson, Adam Horton and Hakeem Finley, a transfer for Pulaski. Hawks said all four are still getting accustomed to the varsity level.
“Brogan and Chase will be solid role players that may contribute to the backcourt. They both played JV last year, but we are throwing a lot at them right now,” Hawks said. “Hakeem is in the same boat. We are throwing so much at him right now, but he is super athletic. Adam is a sophomore and once he grows into his body, we expect really good things out of him. He’s still learning, but he’s learning quickly. He has been a good surprise to the coaching staff.”
Hawks is excited to have two of Carroll’s most successful players back in the fold this year helping with the coaching staff. Austin Horton and Connor Lundy, who helped guide the Cavaliers to their first regional championship in 33 years in 2013, have joined the fold and will help tutor Carroll’s young team this season.
“We’re extremely happy to have both those guys,” Hawks said. “Austin is taking the year off rehabbing a knee at Guilford College and he wanted to help us. Connor is doing a great job helping us too. We’re still in a rebuilding phase. Toward the end of last year, we felt like we were very solid defensively. We want to continue on that and try to surprise some people by the end of the year like we did last year.”
Carroll County opens the season season at home on Tuesday, Dec. 1 against Floyd County. JV action starts at 5:30 p.m with varsity expected to begin at 7 p.m.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on [email protected]