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2009-2010 Basketball: South Rowan boys preview

By Mike London
mlondon@salisburypost.com
LANDIS ó Ask South Rowan boys coach John Davis to describe his team in two words and he’ll go with “vertically challenged.”
That doesn’t mean the Raiders can’t jump ó 6-foot-2 B.J. Grant can windmill-dunk in his sleep ó but it does mean they aren’t very tall.
Davis, who starred for South in the 1980s, is 6-foot-4, and it doesn’t require a yardstick to see he’s taller than any of his current players. Maybe all that stuff about athletes getting bigger and better every year is a myth.
Still, Davis is excited about the 2009-10 season, just as he’s been excited about the previous 10 that he’s coached.
“We’ll be better than last year,” he said. “I’m pretty happy with this group. We may be a lot better.”
Last year was one of Davis’ best ó 14-13, tied for fourth in the NPC. The season included a stunning home victory opening night against a talented Salisbury team that would win its next 28 in a row.
It’s been a tough run on the hardwood for South. The last 20-win season was in 1996, the last Christmas tournament title was celebrated in 1995 and the last league championship came in 1989, the season of the measles epidemic.
The last time South finished above fourth was the talented 1995-96 squad that won 20 and claimed the Moir tournament title. That roster included Jason Crook, Jason Cross, Tony Propst, Ashanti Miller and David Arey.
That South hasn’t finished above fourth for so long is partly because South was in the 4A CPC with the Winston-Salem schools until the last two seasons and partly because the Raiders, more often than not, are vertically challenged.
South has a realistic opportunity to break its streak of fourth-or-lower finishes this season. The NPC is now a seven-team league, minus Lake Norman, Northwest Cabarrus and Mooresville, a trio that was 4A-sized last season
Of the seven schools that remain in the NPC, only West Rowan is a traditional basketball beast, and the Falcons don’t have 6-foot-7 K.J. Sherrill anymore.
The NPC playing field should be as level as it’s been in a decade, and West’s dominance will be challenged.
Can South be one of the challengers? It’s possible.
Missing from last year’s top eight are five players ó Hunter Morrison, Reid Shaver, Addison Corriher, Steven Johnson and Dakota Walker.
Replacing Morrison’s 19.2 points a game from the point guard position can be done by committee, but replacing his ball-handling and passing will be harder. He made South unpressable.
Replacing Shaver’s athleticsm, toughness and post defense also won’t be easy.
Corriher rebounded. Walker was a rugged defender. Johnson was a 3-point threat who played off Morrison’s drive-and-kick skills. Johnson had 22 points against Salisbury and 21 in the epic 107-105 OT win against Statesville. The Raiders will miss his occasional explosions.
The three returning members of the rotation are senior guards Blake Houston and John Davis (son of the coach) and Grant, another senior.
Grant’s career high is 24 points, but he averaged a modest 5.7 as a junior and has never scored consistently.
His game is in the paint, soaring over opponents for stickbacks, finishing around the rim on breaks and making an occasional post move. A 6-foot-8 high jumper, he’s right up there with Salisbury’s Darien Rankin in the competition for most gifted athlete in the county. South needs double-doubles from Grant every night, and he may be ready to accept that role. He scored 17 points in the opener against A.L. Brown.
“We’ve got to get B.J. the ball more, and he’s got to demand it more,” Coach Davis said. “We’re counting on him for rebounds on both ends and a lot of defense.”
The coach’s son used to be known as Little John Davis, but he’s now listed at 6-2. He was hard-nosed as a junior when he averaged 7.4 points per game, and he has a harder nose now after a strong season as one of South’s football linebackers.
People who aren’t South fans will love to hate Davis because he’s going to be one of two places ó on the floor or at the foul line. He is a creator of collisions.
His ballhandling has improved, he’ll drive fearlessly, and he’ll make foul shots. The key for him is making enough 3s to force opponents to come out and play him. If they do come out, he’s going to drive by for layups and trips to the foul line.
He’s a good bet to lead the county in free-throw attempts.
“He had a great summer, and we’re depending on him to score,” Coach Davis said.
Houston (5.4 ppg.) is a smooth, skilled lefty who plays basketball a lot like he ran the option for the football team. He’s got a decent 3-point shot from a wing or corner and is an above-average ballhandler, passer and defender.
Houston is not a traditional point guard in the sense that Morrison was. Houston, Davis and juniors Mark McDaniel and Jon Gaddy will likely share ballhandling responsibilities. Gaddy will provide a defensive spark. McDaniel is smart and athletic.
South has more quickness and depth on the roster than usual and should be able to extend the floor more defensively. Quan Glaspy is a big addition in the quickness department, and the stocky senior also can score. He had 14 points opening night, finding a variety of ways to put the ball in the hoop.
“Quan’s one of those guys that you think got eight, but when you look at the scorebook he got 18,” Coach Davis said.
Brad Akers, a junior, could give the Raiders another dependable scorer. He has a solid-looking 3-point stroke and sufficient height to get his shot off over most defenders.
Reserves will include Donte Henderson, Brandon Sharpe, Brandon Ledbetter, Steven Dessasore, Patrick Archie, D’Andre Harris and Randy Maxwell.
Harris and Maxwell are muscular bruisers in the Dakota Walker mold. Dessasore provides some height.
Dustin Dowling, a potential impact player from Ohio, didn’t suit up opening night. Coach Davis said the Raiders were still making certain there are no eligibility issues.
Jeremy Boulware, a promising transfer from A.L. Brown, is expected to be eligible second semester. Davis is holding a spot for him.
“Top to bottom we’ll be as athletic as we’ve been,” Davis said. “But these aren’t vertically gifted kids.”
Vertically challenged or not, a winning season and a top-three finish aren’t unrealistic goals for the Raiders in a wide-open league.

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