Preo Basketball Preview: West Rowan boys
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA ó West Rowan’s boys surprised everyone last year by finishing 24-7 with a group of inexperienced overachievers.
West will surprise no one this season.
It is favored to win the county Christmas tournament, the NPC championship and maybe, just maybe, get coach Mike Gurley back to the Western Regionals.
“I’m Mr. Sectional Final,” Gurley laughed.
West has made the sectional title game three straight seasons. This year, he has a stable of athletes to make it back. From talented seniors to exciting freshmen, the Falcons seem to have all the pieces.
“There’s no expectations placed on this team that we haven’t felt just about every year I’ve been here,” Gurley said.
The Falcons have usually met the expectations. In 12 years at West, Gurley’s record is 352-102.
And almost every year, Gurley has someone of K.J. Sherrill’s caliber.
Sherrill, a 6-foot-7 forward, is the star of the county. He averaged 18.4 points and 11 rebounds last year and has already signed with Charlotte. The four-year starter has 1,042 career points.
“I’m going to enjoy coaching him,” Gurley said. “He’s old school. He strives to improve his game, and he cares about the team first.”
Will Sherrill be the first option every time down the court?
“He may be the first three options,” Gurley said.
Kaleb Kimber is a question mark. He could be one of the county’s best players, but he is still having back problems that keep him from practicing regularly. The 5-10 senior averaged seven points last year.
“He has great athleticism and can shoot the basketball,” Gurley said. “We hope he can stay healthy for an entire year. We are better when Kaleb Kimber is practicing and playing and being a senior leader.”
Three other seniors include 5-10 guard Myles Moore, 6-0 guard Jason Grant and 6-3 bruiser Brett Huffman.
Moore came on last year and played well, shooting the ball in the clutch.
“Myles is just Myles,” Gurley said. “He has a very calm demeanor. He never gets rattled.”
Grant had to adjust to the system last year after transferring from South Rowan.
“He has a lot of God-given talent, and we want to bring that talent out on display,” Gurley said. “He defends the ball as well as anybody we have on the perimeter.”
Huffman hasn’t played since the ninth grade.
“We know baseball is his first love, but basketball is his passion,” Gurley said. “He basically came out because he loves basketball. We are excited to have his rugged, tough, rebounding body on our team.”
Chris Smith, Isiah Cuthbertson, Jon Crucitti, Maxx Gore and Coleman Phifer are juniors.
Smith is one of the best football players in Rowan County, and the 6-3 stud is a force underneath. He is a returning starter.
“He’ll defend anybody and rebound with the big boys,” Gurley said. “He carries himself with the most charming personality. He just loves being at West Rowan.”
Cuthbertson is yet another big body at 6-4. Gurley found him walking the hallways. This is just his second season of organized ball.
“I told him, ‘You’re way too tall not to go out for basketball,’ ” Gurley said.
Before transferring from Mooresville, Crucitti impressed Blue Devils jayvee coach Brandon Piper, who used to be Gurley’s assistant.
“Piper told me he’s extremely coachable and will do anything you ask to help the team,” Gurley said. “He’s an unknown quantity, but based on my impressions of him in football, he brings a great deal of athleticism and competitiveness.”
“I see him being very Bryan Aycoth-ish,” Gurley said, referring to a former Falcon. “If you want him to guard a 6-8 big man, he’ll do it.”
Gore and Phifer are 5-10 guards. Gore is a good 3-point shooter, and Phifer has a work ethic Gurley likes.
B.J. Sherrill, a 6-1 sophomore, returns with plenty of playing experience.
“He reminds me of a young Dadrian Cuthbertson,” Gurley said. “He’s a steadying influence on the floor. He gives us the intangibles.”
Dominick Noble is a 6-2 sophomore who reminds Gurley of former star Terris Sifford. Gurley calls Noble an “energy guy.”
And then there’s the two freshmen, Keshun Sherrill and Jordan Kimber. Both could start.
“Keshun is a coach’s dream,” Gurley said of the 5-7 point guard. “He’s fundamentally sound. He’s a quick little jet who can push the ball from the point guard spot and make the right play. He’s a distributor.”
Like his older brother, Jordan Kimber has injury issues. He has been bothered by shin splints. But the 5-10 guard can put it in the hole.
“He has a tremendous amount of talent,” Gurley said.
Gurley has mellowed (say what?) in his old age, but this team has his adrenaline flowing.
“I think we have really strong players at every position,” he said. “We’re tough and strong. We can grind with people, but we’re not afraid to run with you. We’ll play the way we need to to try and win.”
“We want to win every dang game we possibly can,” Gurley said. “When we don’t, we’ll go out and try to win the next one.”
Gurley hopes the Falcons win enough to not only get to the sectional final, but win it.
“Three years in a row,” Gurley sighed of being in the sectional championship game. “That’s something to feel good about. But it’s something that should motivate us.”