MIDLOTHIAN – To Ryan Marable, his first year as head coach of Powhatan’s varsity boys basketball team – and his first year as a head coach in the heavily talented Dominion District – was a huge learning experience for all of his team’s coaches and players.
“Just to be able to play against some kids who love the game of basketball every single day, and who go out there and compete every single day…I think we learned a lot about ourselves – coaching staff, players – about what it takes to really win at this level,” Marable said.
It was tough sledding for the Powhatan Indians this season. They wrapped up the 2019-20 regular stretch with a record of 2-20 after taking a 94-55 setback to Manchester in a road game that was rescheduled to Tuesday due to flooding.
“Our biggest opponent all year has been human nature,” Marable said. “When human nature wants to tell you you’re tired or you don’t feel good, can you defeat human nature? Can you beat that opponent? At times we were able to do that, but not enough, not enough to be successful…we do have some kids who battled through that and are able to – if they don’t feel good, if things aren’t going well – they’re able to keep going and just keep playing through that little adversity.”
This season marked a lot of changes for Powhatan’s varsity boys unit. Not only did Marable take over as the new head coach, but the Indians also moved back to the Dominion District, which features the perennially competitive Richmond teams of Huguenot and George Wythe, as well as two state championship programs within the past four years in L.C. Bird and Class 4 foe Monacan.
The Indians also only had two returners who played substantial minutes last season in seniors Trey Moore and Jay Harris.
“There were no gimmes in our schedule all year long, so I think that teaches you to be a man and be able to show up every day and keep working and not let the same things beat you multiple times and don’t let yourself beat you multiple times,” Marable said. “We struggled with that as a team…that’s just a big learning experience for us, and it’s a big learning experience for these kids that they can carry on for the rest of their lives.”
The growth that Powhatan made as the season progressed could be seen in its two wins, both of them comeback efforts from earlier setbacks. After taking a 59-42 home loss to Midlothian in December, the Indians this past month denied the Trojans 68-58. And then, in a rematch with Clover Hill, who in January defeated them 59-51, the Indians, playing at home on their Senior Night, fended off the Cavaliers 67-62.
In Powhatan’s season finale at Manchester on Tuesday, Harris drained three 3-pointers and led all players in the game with 17 points.
His teammate, fellow senior Logan Wyatt, added 15 points.
Marable hopes all of the players coming back to the Indians next year will “learn from a guy like Logan Wyatt who showed up every day, brought his lunch pail and just worked tirelessly and gave his all to the program and really had a great senior year.”
“I think with the juniors, it should be a big eye opener, because they have had success, so now they know what it takes, and they’ve had failures and…they know what it takes to not let that happen again. I’m really excited about them,” Marable said. “I think at times, their talent – we think their talent should’ve led to leadership roles, but they weren’t ready to take those leadership roles this year. I think next year, and even starting next week, hopefully we’ll be in the weight room next week, and hopefully those guys will take that leadership [mentality of] ‘This is my team now. We’re not going to let that happen again.’
“Once the kids take ownership of the program, that’s when we can really take the next step.”
For the two freshmen who got brought up to the varsity team towards the end of the season, and for dynamic player and junior Brylan Rather, who in the closing stretch started getting matched up against the opposing team’s best player, next year has already started, Marable said. The plan for the Indians is to work in the weight room with coach Blake Derby, and Marable hopes that the players will get in there on their own.
The team is looking to do varsity and JV team camps, compete in summer leagues and hold open gyms outside of football workouts so that the football players can also contribute and potentially add more toughness and depth to the basketball program.
“Hopefully we can really establish our offseason program where kids will be in the gym…just playing against each other, playing hard against each other the right way versus each other, and starting to compete a little bit more in the offseason,” Marable said.
Thursday’s contest marked the final high school game for Powhatan’s seniors Harris, Moore, Wyatt and Michael Washburn.
“I think they learned a lot about themselves and hopefully – I told them in the locker room – hopefully when they have a team of their own, whether it’s their kids or their nephews or nieces…they’ll understand where I was coming from, and it will help them make kids better, and knowing that we really care about them as people,” Marable said. “This first group, they started this thing, and hopefully they’ll have a place to come back if they want to play and compete and make some guys better…two or three years down the road, hopefully next year, they can come back to games and really be proud of what they started.”