2009-2010 Basketball: West Rowan boys preview
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA ó Last year, Mike Gurley started basketball season at West Rowan without his football players, who were on their way to a 3A state championship.
But at least he had 6-foot-7 center K.J. Sherrill.
This year, Gurley started practice without the football players or Sherrill, now a freshman at Charlotte.
So he waits for K.P. Parks, Chris Smith, B.J. Sherrill, Jon Crucitti, Maxx Gore, Coleman Phifer, KaJuan Phillips, Maurice Warren, Isiah Cuthbertson and Domonique Noble to finish with football before they pick up the roundball.
That’s 10 key players he’s missing until perhaps mid-December as they go for football title No. 2.
And that’s fine with Gurley.
“I’m proud of these young men at West and the success they have in other sports,” he said. “I enjoy being there and cheering them on. If we can’t have a preseason because they’re making memories, that’s a pretty small thing to give up.”
Gurley takes a lot of jayvee players to scrimmages and works with what he has.
One positive is that sophomore point guard Keshun Sherrill is helping the younger players. He knows Gurley’s routine well, considering he saw plenty of time as a freshman, and has been hanging around the program since the third grade, when he followed brother Jamel Carpenter to the gym.
“I call Keshun an eight-year varsity player,” Gurley said. “He’s had to take on a leadership and coaching role. I make him run drills. He learned them when he was 8, 9 years old.”
The 5-8 Sherrill had 10 double-figure games during last year’s 26-4 campaign. He is the team’s leading returning scorer at 8.7 points per game.
“He’s one of the vital guards who has to take care of the ball,” Gurley said. “He’s had a really great offseason, and I really hope it turns into success.”
Gurley says Sherrill is a combo guard.
“He’d be a five-tool player in baseball,” Gurley said. “He has a great jump shot.”
After Parks, a football All-American, gets through with all of his all-star games, he’ll be running the show at point guard.
“He has been a leader of this particular group for six years,” Gurley said. “He takes care of the ball and gets it from point A to point B. He’s as quick as anybody in the league. He can get to the rack.”
The 6-foot-2, 245-pound Smith intimidates as soon as he takes off his warmups. The future Arkansas defensive end is a defensive force in basketball.
“He’s the hub of our defense,” Gurley said.
Smith isn’t known as a scorer. He’s an enforcer who bullies the opposition’s inside players and rebounds with the best of them.
“I’m excited about Chris playing his fourth season on varsity for the Falcons,” Gurley said.
It’s doubtful Crucitti, a 5-10 senior, will ever be the leading scorer, but that’s not what Gurley is looking for. He wants the bounding energy Crucitti brings to everything he does.
“I can’t show you on the stat sheet what Jon Crucitti does for us,” Gurley said. “He’s a winner. He’s a worker. He’s a motivator. He might be the most coachable kid I’ve ever been around. He’ll give us game-plan execution, defense and sneaky scoring.”
Junior B.J. Sherrill is a three-year varsity player who can light it up. Although standing just 6-1, he is listed as a post player.
“What he lacks in vertical height he makes up for with his football body and solid fundamentals of knowing how to box out,” Gurley said. “It makes him a very good rebounder. B.J. also possesses the ability to pass the ball.”
Another junior, the 6-3 Noble, is Gurley’s best athlete.
“He can run, jump and get hands on balls,” Gurley said. “His active nature should hopefully help us win a lot of ballgames.”
Noble is in his third year on varsity.
“His playing time will quadruple,” Gurley insisted.
Gore, a 5-8 senior, could be the team’s top 3-point shooter.
“A little more work on ballhandling and defense will make him even more valuable,” Gurley said.
Other seniors include Phifer, Phillips, Cuthbertson and Roy Wood, the team’s tallest player at 6-8.
“Phifer is the ultimate team player,” Gurley said.
“Phillips played jayvee as a junior because I wanted him to play, not sit. He took that role with bravado, and that should materialize into a lot of playing time. He’s hard-nosed.”
The long, 6-4 Cuthbertson was sent down to jayvee last year for the same reason, and he learned he could score around the basket.
“I call him the ‘Mayor of Mimosa Street,’ ” Gurley chuckled. “He has to give us defense, rebounding and hustle in the post.”
Warren, a 6-3 sophomore, and 6-3 junior Kevin Turner come up from jayvee.
“Turner has that herky-jerky ability to get to the hole,” Gurley said. “He’s also left-handed, and that makes his shot harder to block. He’s like Domonique. He’s a slasher with long arms.”
Gurley likes Warren.
“He’s a very good offensive player,” Gurley said. “He has an assortment of moves to get shots off in the post.”
There is no high-scoring star returning for the first time in what seems like forever.
“We’ll be a hard-nosed, tough-minded basketball team,” said Gurley, who enters his 18th season of coaching with a career record of 376-106. “We’re going to rely on that. In the past, we’ve had a big fella … or two, or three … to make the nucleus of our game plan. This group, to be successful, has to rely on the entire roster to do things like rebound, change opponents’ shots, break pressure and score the ball.”
Gurley won’t have K.J. Sherrill’s post presence, Myles Moore’s 3-point shooting, Kaleb Kimber’s smoothness or Jason Grant’s quickness. They’ve all graduated. He won’t have sophomore Jordan Kimber anymore, either. Kimber now plays for a private school in Charlotte.
“But,” Gurley said, “I like the ballclub we’ll bring into the gym every night.”
Especially when football season is over.