The Virginia State men’s basketball team, coming off a record-breaking season last year, will start this season on another high note.
The Trojans were predicted to finish second in the CIAA preseason poll and second in the Northern Division.
Including preseason all-CIAA selections Andrew Corum and Walter Williams (Henrico), the Trojans only return a few players from last year, when Virginia State won the CIAA Northern Division and the CIAA tournament championship crown.
The Trojans were 28-5 last year, registering the most single-season wins in program history. VSU also set a school record by winning 16 consecutive games.
Even with all of the recent success, coach Lonnie Blow is only focused on “reloading” his team after losing several key players to graduation.
“We’ll be a different team than we were the last year because we’ll be younger and not quite as experienced, said Blow, who was named the 2019 HBCU Digest coach of the year. “But, we have a talented group, and we’re excited about the upcoming season.”
Blow has been working hard to get his 10 newcomers acclimated to VSU’s system. Blow says his team is trying to put it all together so that everyone is on the same page to embrace the progress of getting better.
“We live to compete so [we’re] just trying to get back to the season and make sure we are ready to compete at a high level,” Blow said.
Many of the newcomers are freshmen, like Jordan Hernandez, who is from Richmond. Others are transfers, including Pernell Adgei (Longwood) and Francis “BJ” Fitzgerald (Norfolk State).
Fowards Corum, a senior, and junior William Vedder will be counted on to step up this season. Corum averaged 7.5 points and 6.2 rebounds in 17.9 minutes last year, and Vedder averaged 5.8 and 3.5 for VSU, which lost its top five scorers from last season.
Senior Armond Griebe is excited about getting started this year with new players and vows to lead by example.
“Just doing whatever the coach wants me to do and more at a consistent level,” Griebe said. “Doing the right thing on and off the court. My actions will speak for itself.”
Williams, a senior, who only played in three games last year because of injury but averaged 9.8 points two seasons ago, has the experience to help lead a young team. Junior Daniel Rahama is also a talented player that will bring his experience to the court.
Virginia State has a tough schedule ahead of them as they move through conference play. The Trojans got a jump start to the season with an exhibition game against VCU. With a long road ahead, Blow believes his players are ready for the challenge.
“Most of our guys have improved a lot from last year, they will be in different roles this year,” Blow said. “[The] guys that came off the bench or whatever the case might be are going to be put in the starting lineup and [will] have to play a bigger part of the team for us.”
The team’s successful season last year can still be felt in the program. The Trojans are excited to get the year going as it is a chance to start over again with a new and young team.
“Right now we have to look forward and hopefully try to get another [title],” Blow said.