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Growing pains

South Boston News
Members of the Halifax County High School varsity boys basketball team are, from left, first row, James Burden, Kevon Tucker and Tevin Edmunds; second row: T. J. Brooks, Trelanne Johnson, Quentin Jennings, Keyshawn Johnson, Tavion Petty and Ikeem Woody. Second row, Will Miller, Dakota Delaware, Evin Morrison, Kory Lennon, Justin Williams and Manager Jawon Jackson. Not pictured are coach Larry Epperly and assistant coaches Sterling Williams and Tyler Epperly.
SoVaNow.com / November 20, 2012
Patience is likely to be a necessary ingredient for HCHS varsity boys’ basketball fans this season.

The Comets, moving into the second year of the Larry Epperly era, figure to have a very tough road in the final year of Western Valley District play, and some of the non-conference games will include considerable tests as well.

This appears to be a rebuilding year, again.

HCHS, 9-13 overall a year ago and 4-4 in regular season conference play, will not have a lot of experience. The Comets also figure to struggle at times in containing some of the more athletic frontcourt players in the WVD.

Epperly managed to lead the Comets to some surprises in the WVD a year ago, and high school hoops can be unpredictable at times.

The Comets scrimmaged at Dan River last night, and had more exhibition action planned this weekend, before the start of the season Nov. 27.

“We’re further along than we were this time last year. We went to summer camp and we had some kids that have been playing a little bit more. Last year, we didn’t get started until late August,” Epperly said.

“We’re making progress. The character of the team is good. Conditioning, we’d like to see it a little bit better. For some reason, we’re not in as good a shape (teamwise) as I’d like to be. “All in all, we’ve made a lot of improvement,” Epperly said.

EXPERIENCE AN ISSUE: The Comets have only two players, Dakota Delaware and Tavion Petty, who got significant minutes last year.

HCHS has four seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.

The seniors are Ikeem Woody, T.J. Brooks, Delaware and Evin Morrison. The juniors are James Burden, Trelanne Johnson, Kevin Edmunds and Kevon Tucker.The sophomores are Keyshawn Johnson, Petty, Dustin Williams and Kory Lennon.

Will Miller and Quentin Jennings are the freshmen.

THE STARTERS: Morrison is the projected starter at center.

The 6-7 senior was on the team last year and did not play a lot. Morrison got behind a bit because he participated in cross country, and has to do some catching up, Epperly said.

“He’s got to get some rebounds for us, and play solid defense.”

Lennon is the backup center. He’s 6-5, 235, and “when he catches the ball on the block, he can really score. He’s got to work on his conditioning.

He’s struggling a little bit getting up and down the court,” said Epperly.

HCHS is starting Burden and Tucker at forwards. They are members of the junior class. Tucker is a good shooter, and has range for 3-point attempts. “He’s really a smooth player, just solid in all phases, handles it OK, defends OK. Doesn’t do anything great, but he does everything good,” Epperly said.

Burden is “an effort guy. He plays really hard, and will give us some easy baskets in transistion. He can really run, he’s athletic, does the dirty work. (Burden) plays solid defense, just a real team guy.” Petty is playing the two-guard spot.

Petty has 3-point range, and Epperly is trying to coax more defensive improvement out of this Comet player.

Johnson runs the team from the point guard spot, and Epperly said he’s a solid player. “For a sophomore, he’s pretty mature, handles the ball well. He understands what we’re trying to do, just a solid player.”.

“We have a sophomore backcourt. We have two starting junior forwards and Evin’s the lone senior,” Epperly said.

CATCH 22? HCHS likely has a better ballclub, but the rest of the WVD appears to have improved as well. The move to the Piedmont district is still a year away, so the last season in the WVD could be very challenging.

“We are better. But the league is better,” said Epperly.

GW-Danville has two NCAA Division 1 prospects at the guard spots, and another player (Chris Burton) pledged to play FBS football at N.C. State. Burton is on the hoops squad. The Eagles could be headed to the Group AAA state tournament.

Patrick Henry and William Fleming each have four starters returning, and Franklin County likely won’t be a pushover. HCHS faces some significant challenges here.

Epperly believes PH is the early favorite to win the WVD.

“PH won it last year, and they’ve got everybody back. I’d still give PH the edge, but they’ll (GW and PH) be neck and neck,” Epperly said.

“We just want to keep getting better,” Epperly said. “We’re going to play every game, and give a good effort. I think our execution will be better. There’s a lot of things that are going to be better this year, but we’re also playing some really good teams. Person’s got a top 50 player in the country (Tyrone Outlaw Jr); Glass has got a prospect (a 6-10 inside player).

“It seems like everybody we play is pretty good. The schedule just makes it tough,” Epperly said.

YOUTH MOVEMENT: There’s one positive here. When Piedmont district play starts in two seasons, Epperly should have a strong returning cast in terms of experience.

“We’re young. We’ve got two freshmen, and one of them’s going to get some minutes (Will Miller),” said Epperly.

Miller came to summer camp, and some of the coaches were commenting on “how smart a player he was, very smart. .. His mind right now knows what to do, but his body’s got to catch up with it. He’s got to get stronger, but he’s already like 6-3 as a ninth grader,” said Epperly.

OVERVIEW: Epperly insists “we could be good this year, if everything comes together. With the roster of five sophomores and two freshmen, and a lot of them are going to play, it takes some time.”

Outside of Morrison and Lenon, HCHS also does not have much size, and the Comets are lacking some strong bodies. “We have a bunch of guys who are long and thin. You worry about size. Rebounding is a concern,” said Epperly.

“Last year, our biggest problem was we turned the ball over too much. We’ve got to take better care of the ball, because every time you turn it over, you’re setting off the fast break, going the other way. That’s what hurt us last year. We gave up too many easy baskets,” said Epperly.



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