Max Johns ’18
The Woodberry Forest School’s varsity basketball team has seen its fair share of changes since its past season. At the conclusion of last season in March of 2016, the team had high hopes for future success. However, All-Prep point guard Joe Foley decided to return home to Menlo Park, California for his junior season, and All-Prep guard Max Johns is out for the season from a meniscus tear while playing soccer. Eight of the fourteen players on the roster are new to the team, and naturally a learning curve ensues. A fair share are still adjusting to varsity competition, particularly the
speed of play, physicality, intensity, and the consistency required to succeed, which is not uncommon. Rookies in the NBA often go through the same process. Shooting percentages and points per game are generally lower as a result of a season with more physicality and professionalism. Of course, a high school team is not afforded the same eighty-two game season as an NBA team. The team only has nine more guaranteed games; time may be running out. Although the team is off to a rough start at 2-10, they have shown glimpses of a team that can compete with anyone in the Prep League. They’ve fought hard and have come up short in a majority of the games this season, most notably an overtime loss at home against an athletic Hargrave Military Academy team and a close game against the defending state champions of Episcopal High School. Let’s not forget that last year’s team started the season much the same. Through the first six games of the 2015-16 season, the varsity team was 0-6, but by the end managed to make the state tournament for the first time in over a decade and finish in the top four in the Prep League. This team is capable of doing the same. The starting five consists of junior point guard Jameel Wilson, senior shooting
guard Calder Clay, junior small forward Will Wideman, senior power forward Thomas Bledsoe, and senior center John Kirven, who is going to the University of Virginia next year on a football scholarship. Most of the team’s success has come from the defensive end, much to the credit of the coaching staff, holding teams to an average of 44 points per game and shooting 24% from the three point line. Offense has been the problem for the team this season, as they are only scoring 40 points per game and shooting 42% from two point range, 21% from three point range, and 56% from the free throw line. Calder Clay leads the team in scoring with 12.6 points per game, followed by Jameel Wilson with 6.5 points per game and Thomas Bledsoe with 6.25 points per game. Those three alone account for around 63% of the team’s total scoring. A team identity has not yet taken shape; players are still adapting to roles that may have been previously unfamiliar to them. The team needs to put the ball in the hole, and the coaching staff
is puzzled as to how to solve the problem. Shooting during practice has become a priority for the past weeks, but nothing really seems to be changing statistically. It’s got nothing to do with the quality of shots the team is taking. Most shots come within the flow of the offense, and they are good, open looks. They’re just not falling. I don’t think putting the ball in the hole is the only variable, though. In my opinion, the amount of success this team will have in the future is predicated on the way they approach every practice. There has to be intention and focus to every drill and scrimmage. With that I think comes the ability to trust themselves. The team trusts each other, but right now I don’t they are entirely confident in their own abilities. There is only so much the coaches can do for the players if the opponent is not the only thing they are battling.
All the pieces are there to win games, and players are put in positions to succeed. They control how successful they are for the rest of the season. I’m interested to see if they’ll turn things around. Don’t count them out yet.