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Prep basketball: Practice begins

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
Salisbury girls basketball coach Andrew Mitchell didn’t spend hours searching through drawers for the right thing to wear to Monday’s first official practice.
His red “31-0” T-shirt that was issued in 2004 did the job. His silent salute to an unbeaten, Jennifer Shoaf-coached, Shayla Fields-led bunch of Hornets was inspiration for his current group to keep setting goals higher.
Mitchell’s team won the 2A state title last spring, but it was “only” 29-3. The message: Don’t be satisfied. Don’t stop working.
“We didn’t really talk today about what our team did last year,” Mitchell said. “The main focus of our first day was just to make sure no one is outworking us or out-conditioning us. I told the girls I won’t be impressed until no one in the nation is outworking us.”
Mitchell still has Bubbles Phifer, the Holmes twins (Ashia and Ayanna) and several strong post players, who have been reinforced by 6-foot-2 Olivia Rankin. She was all-county as an East Rowan sophomore.
“Olivia has soft hands, she’s sound fundamentally and was coached very well at East,” Mitchell said. “It’s a blessing to have her.”
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Salisbury boys coach Jason Causby’s team will be fine in time, but his sixth season at the helm of the Hornets began quietly.
“It was definitely a challenge,” Causby said. “We had 13 bodies in the gym, but not much experience.”
Darien Rankin wasn’t dunking, Romar Morris and Dominique Phillips weren’t making steals, Alex Weant wasn’t rebounding and John Knox wasn’t drilling 3s. They’re on the football field.
Tyler Petty, a tall youngster who helped the Hornets this summer, sprained an ankle playing soccer and was limited.
“Today still got the juices flowing a little bit, especially when I filled out that calendar for November,” Causby said. “We’ll be going over to North Rowan early, playing West Rowan early. Lots of big games early. That gets you excited.”
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West boys coach Mike Gurley feels the same mixture of pride and pain as Causby.
He’ll have only a shell of his basketball team until football is over, and his school’s ride in the playoffs may go the distance.
“I’ve got two dates circled,” said Gurley, who welcomed soph Keshun Sherrill and many unfamiliar faces. “This Thursday is circled because that’s the end of jayvee football, and we’ll get some kids. The other date is Dec. 14. That’s when I expect the varsity to be done with football. I can’t say it’s an ideal situation, but how can you complain when the kids in this school are thriving in football and doing some phenomenal things.”
Gurley’s 18th season as a head coach and 13th at West began.
“I used to be that aggressive young buck, and now I’m supposed to be that calming influence,” Gurley said.
That’s not going to happen, but at least Gurley hasn’t misplaced his sense of humor.
“Any excitement today was definitely premature excitement,” he said. “What did we work on? Fullback dives and out patterns. What else?”
 
 

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