Davie County boys preview: Nowhere to go but up

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 26, 2014

By Brian Pitts

The Davie County Enterprise Record

With the defections of two sets of twins — the Martins and the Hatfields — and Kenyon Tatum, the 2013-14 Davie County boys basketball team went from returning all five starters to falling from the clouds and landing face first on concrete.

The steep dropoff from winning 19, 23 and 21 games was created when the Martins transferred to Oak Hill, the Hatfields transferred to Mt. Tabor and Tatum transferred to North Rowan. While they played their senior seasons elsewhere, Davie went 4-21 overall and 0-12 in the Central Piedmont Conference. The season ended with an 11-game losing streak.

The War Eagles have nowhere to go but up in 2014-15. There will still be long nights in the CPC. Davie is still in rebuilding mode. But it should be markedly better this winter. It can’t hurt that there is no pressure on this team because no one expects it to finish in the upper echelon of the league.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we’re better,” said Mike Absher, in his 13th season as head coach. “We’re still not a very big team, but physically we’ve gotten stronger. I think there’s a lot of 50/50 games on our schedule, and I think these guys have the potential to win more of those games than we did last year.”

Absher liked what he saw from last week’s scrimmages against South Caldwell and Newton-Conover.

“There were a whole lot more positive things than negative,” he said. “We’ve got some guys that you can just tell they’re better. We’re just further ahead of where we were a year ago in all areas.”


Nic Starnes, junior, guard: Starnes is the War Eagles’ top returning scorer after averging 7.4 points per game in 2013-14. His biggest night was a 20-point effort on 8-of-11 shooting. “Nic is a tremendous passer,” he said. “If you’ll run the floor, you’ll get the ball. He’s the type of guy you want to play with because he will pass you the ball at any time, any place. You’ve just got to be ready to catch it and finish. And he can score. He’s worked extremely hard in the offseason. He’s increased his bench 15 to 20 pounds. He’s quicker and he’s a much more physical player than he was a year ago.”

Jordan McDaniel, junior, guard/forward: McDaniel is the No. 2 returning scorer at 7.1. Like Starnes, he has improved a ton. “He’s worked really hard in the weight room,” Absher said. “With a year (of varsity) experience, I think some good things will happen for him. He’s shooting the 3 better than he was a year ago. He may well be the most improved guy.”

Heath Slabach, sophomore, guard: Slabach averaged 4.7 points as a freshman and cracked double figures four times. What distinguishes him is his ability to drain 3-pointers. “And his mid-range game from 15 feet is a lot better,” Absher said. “Now he’s got a counter to his 3-point shot because you know everybody’s going to run at him hard when he’s spotting up. When he’s shooting well, he can make a bunch in a hurry.”

Scorers are absolutely necessary, but so too are auxiliary players who do the grunt work underneath the basket. Blaise Bennett, Holden Poole and L.P. Mua are Davie’s foremost interior players.

Blaise Bennett, senior, forward: Bennett, a 6-1 senior who averaged 6.7 points last year, almost always matches up with a taller opponent, but he compensates with relentless competitiveness and his unteachable gift of having a nose for the ball. “He’s got so much heart,” Absher said. “We ask him to do a lot. He’s 6-1, but he has to play in the post. But he takes that battle every night.”

L.P. Mua, junior, forward: Mua is a 6-3 junior who will be asked to rebound, defend and set screens. Any points will be a bonus. “We told him he’s got to be more productive on offense, and he’s worked on his baby hook,” Absher said. “And he’s starting to understand defensive concepts that he didn’t have a complete understanding of last year. I think L.P. is going to have a good year.”



Returning players:

2013-14 record: 4-21, 0-12 CPC

2013 conf. finish: 7th