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2009-2010 Basketball: Davie boys preview

By Brian Pitts
sports@salisburypost.com
MOCKSVILLE ó Any apprehension concerning the Davie boys basketball team is understandable.
Last year Davie finished 6-19 for the third time in four years, the exception a 13-13 mark in 2007-08.
It lost 17 of the final 20 games and went 1-9 in the 4A CPC, tying for last in the six-team league.
It has lost 36 of 44 conference games over four years.
And Drew Absher, the school’s career leader in 3-point field goals and the No. 3 scorer in history, left some big shoes to fill. He led the 2008-09 team in scoring (15.2 points), 3s (73), steals (39) and assists (102).
Yes, 2008-09 was a brutal year. But last year was last year. Eighth-year Davie coach Mike Absher expects the 2009-10 War Eagles to be better, perhaps far better. It’s hard to envision them winning 14 or 15 games, but a return to double figures seems realistic despite the enormous hurdles that always face Davie in the CPC.
“I really, really like the energy and the excitement,” Absher said. “Our goal every year is to make the playoffs. It is a process in building us back to where we need to be. Making the playoffs, that’s definitely the mentality.”
The hopeful rebirth begins in the middle with sophomore Shannon Dillard, who can jump tall buildings and run the floor gracefully. He dunked with ease as a freshman, so he might tear the rim down as a sophomore. He received baptism under fire last year and barely flinched, posting a series of double-doubles down the stretch.
Dillard averaged 8.0 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.
“He finished up good last year,” Absher said. “He played really good against Reynolds in the conference tournament. In the summer he was a stronger player. His commitment in the weight room, especially this fall, has been much better. The biggest thing is he needs to bring it on every play and every possession. We’re really trying to bring aggressiveness out of him. We want him to have the mentality of, ‘I’m going to dunk the ball over somebody.’ ”
The top returning scorer from last year is senior combo guard Jamal Mayfield (9.8 average). He can knock down a 3 from time to time, but he’s got electric moves when he drives to the paint.
“He was tremendous in the offseason,” Absher said. “Even when he was contemplating football, he still was doing both sports. We told him he’s going to have to lead by example. He’s shooting a little better from the 3-point line. He’s still the same penetrator, and that’s definitely gotten better. And we want him to be able to guard some really good people.”
Sophomore point guard Denzel Redmon is ready to make his mark after barely making a ripple as a varsity freshman. The slasher has big-time athletic ability.
“We hope he’s the point guard,” Absher said. “There’s definitely a difference in him. It’s hard when you are the leader and the floor general as a sophomore, but he can do it. There’s no question he can do it.”
Junior P.J. Neely, a bit player as a varsity sophomore, is primed to step in on the low block. Absher admires the determination he showed in the offseason while juggling football and basketball workouts.
“He jumped right in there (when football ended),” Absher said. “He’s much more physical, and he’s much quicker with the ball in the post. He’s very active and aggressive on defense. He can rebound. He and Shannon are good against each other in practice. P.J.’s an integral part of what we’re getting ready to do.”
Junior wing Raheem Martin had made himself a sure-fire starter until breaking a bone in his foot on Nov. 7. He’s out 4-6 weeks. He will definitely be a guy to watch after Christmas.
“He was our leader,” Absher said. “He was the most vocal guy in the gym. He brings energy and versatility that we haven’t had ó because he can play three or four and he can lead the break. He’s the best communicator on defense that we’ve had in years. So our leader is sitting over there in a cast. I would say he’ll be ready for the Sam Moir (Christmas Tournament).”
Absher said there’s a good chance five sophomores will play up. The War Eagles don’t have a lot of height. But a number of players off the bench could make significant contributions. And Davie’s athleticism has put a bounce in Absher’s step.
“Every player has something that they can give the team,” he said. “Whether it’s on offense or defense or whatever it may be, it’s there. I think that’s what makes this team fun to coach. We’re not tall, but we do have some rangy, long kids. For example, if we have Jamal, Denzel, Raheem, P.J. and Shannon on the floor, that could be a pretty good pressuring unit.”

NOTES: Other players on the roster include: Lake Slabach, Davis Absher, Darius Wilson, Blake Simmons, Taylor Jones, Michael Key, Kentrell Ray and Nathan Jones. … Davie has made the playoffs once in four years, and it hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005. … Junior Patrick Whaley is also injured (knee). He’s out another week, at least. “He may have a torn ligament,” Absher said. … Bill Walwik is a new coach on the staff. He is running the freshman team. … Absher’s varsity assistants are Mike Dinkins, Lance Everette, Johnny Miller and Cliff Burns.

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