At this time last year, the Richmond Senior boys basketball team was 6-0 heading into Pinecrest’s Holiday in the Pines Tournament.
After claiming the school’s first championship in the event behind Shydamion Ellerbe and Jordan Richardson, the Raiders extended their winning streak to 10 before hitting the skids in Southeastern Conference play.
The team would straddle the line between earning an automatic berth or grabbing an at-large bid in the 4A playoffs the rest of the season. Things turned out fine for David Laton and his crew as they reached the third round and nearly upset Davie County on the road.
Even though Richmond will not go into Thursday’s Holiday in the Pines opener with Nansemond River undefeated, this year’s team could be better than the previous group.
Losing Jalen Clarke, Justin Glenn and Trey Little to graduation as well as having starting point guard Josh Calhoun out because of injury is being felt in crunch time. In their only loss of the season to Marlboro, the Raiders seemed to lack a vocal leader, who would will the team to victory.
There are several players on the team who prefer to lead their teammates by actions rather than words, but there will be times when in a hostile environment a calming voice on court will be needed. Calhoun, who is close to returning to the floor, could slide into that role. It will be tough for Calhoun to get minutes because Jalen McDonald, Xavier Davis and Greg Patterson have impressed Laton with their play in Calhourn’s absence.
And that’s why this Raider team could make a deep run in the postseason — depth. Last season when any of his starters needed a break or got into foul trouble, Laton was forced to juggle his lineup and put players in unfamiliar positions.
Because of his team’s versatility, Laton now has the ability to comfortably move players in and out at various positions and not miss a beat on either end of the court.
Currently, the Raiders are one of eight 4A teams in the state with just one loss, while another eight are unbeaten.
While it is nice to be included in the conversation with teams like Seventy-First, Richmond can’t rely on the status quo. It needs to take the next step in order to challenge Tarique Thompson and Hoke County for the SEC title.
For that to happen, a leader will need to emerge.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com.