For Powhatan’s varsity boys’ basketball team, a new era is beginning.
Most of its 11 players are either new or inexperienced at the varsity level. Ryan Marable is leading the way as the new head coach. The Indians will be playing several new opponents with the shift to the Dominion District, comprised of nearby schools from Chesterfield County and South Richmond.
But with the Powhatan Indians being an unknown entity overall, “the door’s wide open for their success,” as Marable put it.
“It’s up to them to take what we’re giving them as a coaching staff, embrace it and take it and make a name for themselves,” he added, “and hopefully in return, we can make a name for ourselves as far as… the new district.”
Following tryouts, Powhatan kept 5 juniors and 6 seniors. Returners with key minutes on the varsity court include Jay Harris and Trey Moore.
“I think we’ve got a lot of great tools that we can use in a way that – if they choose their role and they play through their role – then I think we have great potential to be good…” Moore said. “It’s all about hard work and determination: if we really want it or if we don’t.”
“We have a lot of guys who care – they want to win,” Marable said. “The seniors want to leave the program better than they found it and I think that’s important.”
Harris, who last year engineered Powhatan’s 85-82 victory over Fluvanna on two clutch three-pointers, said they’ve got a lot of talent on this year’s team, and he’s excited to take on the upcoming season with his teammates. Michael Washburn, son of former longtime Powhatan boys basketball head coach Steve Washburn, and Logan Wyatt will be part of this year’s team. Brylan Rather, Ethan Kramer and L.J. Alston are all coming up from JV. Marable said his players are “great kids,” and he’s looking forward to working with them.
But one major obstacle facing the Indians going into the new season is their overall lack of varsity experience.
“That playing experience is huge and we don’t have that, so we’re just gonna have to learn on the fly,” Marable said, “and get that experience as quick as possible and lean on those guys that have a little bit of experience to provide some leadership.”
With the return of Harris and Moore – and the team’s plethora of newcomers – comes the potential for an effective outside shooting game. But Marable and his coaches are also really trying to get their players to not fall in love with their jumpshots – and to put pressure on the opposing defense.
“Just want to try to work on our shot selection a little bit more – we love the 3-ball, but we’re in love with layups,” Marable said. “If we can put pressure on the defense, get the ball into the paint and then kick-out to the guys who can knock down shots, I think it’ll give us a lot better chance to be successful...
“I’m looking forward to just them changing up a little bit of their mentality and trying to get to the free throw line a little bit more this year and drive the ball a little bit more…”
Mentality, Moore said, is “probably the number-one thing that we need to worry about right now.”
“A lot of us…we’re a little shaky on some adversity edges, but other than that, I think we definitely can conquer it,” Moore said.
This summer, the team took several players to the University of Richmond team camp, where they lost 6 times but were competing with teams towards the end of camp while playing in the hardest division according to Marable.
“I think we really learned that when…adversity sets in, we have to come together and stay true to ourselves and help each other out,” Marable said, “because no one guy is really going to be able to bail us out and win games for us by themselves.”
Moore emphasized communication with trusting each other.
“On defense…we’ve got to more direct each other where we’re going rather than just saying something,” he said. “You’ve got to say something with a purpose – it can’t just be said.”
Harris said they’ve been working on cutting to the ball, getting a lot of shots up during practice, moving their feet on defense and talking. Defensively, Marable and his coaching staff – which includes Jordan Burgess, Britton Marable (no relation) and Josh Forkey – take pride in trying to get stops and make offense difficult for the opposing team. Now, they’re just trying to get their players to “embrace that every possession.”
Physically, Powhatan does have height on its side, notably from Kramer.
“Ethan Kramer is a coach’s dream as far as his height, his size,” Marable said. “But he’s got great hands, great feet and he is just so coachable; he wants to learn so much, so really looking forward to getting him some touches and using him in our offense to help create some offense for our guards, too, so they don’t have to do everything on their own.”
Powhatan also has length from players including Rather, Washburn and Wyatt.
“They might not be ‘bigs’ by the standard definition,” Marable said. “But their length and their athleticism should give us some opportunities to do some things around the basket for sure.”
Powhatan varsity boys’ basketball officially opens its 2019-20 season on Wednesday, Dec. 4 (7:15 p.m.) at home versus Cosby. The team hopes to see the fans come out to its games throughout the season and show how much pride that Powhatan has in both its boys’ and girls’ teams.
To Harris, if a team has good tempo, then that team is “gonna at least put up a fight during the game.”
“If we have our tempo right,” he said, “it’s gonna be hard to beat us.”