Statesmen look to surprise

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Randolph-Henry High School’s varsity boys basketball team is entering a season of significant transition, but the Statesmen are looking to surprise their competition with a year that results in far more than a simple rebuild.

There were big shoes to fill on the sidelines with the retirement of Head Coach James Graves. He led the Statesmen to great success over the years and left on a high note after guiding Randolph-Henry to claim the James River District tournament championship last season. The 2017-18 Statesmen advanced as far as the regional semifinals and finished with an overall record of 18-7.

Taking over for Graves is his assistant coach of the past three years, Josh Haskins. This is his first time serving as the head coach of a varsity program, but he knows the program and its participants well.

Pondering what the Statesmen could do this year, he said, “I think that we could be a surprise to a lot of people.”

He did grant, though, that inexperience will play a key role.

The roster features one freshman, two sophomores, two juniors and six seniors, but he noted that only three of those seniors actually played last year on the varsity team, and only part of that trio saw much time on the court.

“We’ve only got two guys that really played varsity minutes last year, so I know one thing about inexperience is that you have your good days with it and your bad days with it,” Haskins said. “Some of those times you can sneak up on people, and some of those times they’ll sneak up on you.”

The new coach is not setting his sights lower as if this were a rebuilding year.

“Our goal is to definitely make it just as far as we did into the region as this past year,” he said. “I know that’s a high goal, but we talk about that all the time, having that confidence in yourself.”

Two players he is counting on for their ball-handling abilities are senior guard/forward Masud Benu and senior guard Jashon Puryear.

They will look to fill the shoes of all-region first-teamers Tremaine Pugh and Nasheim Pettus and fellow senior standout Jordan Jones.

In the paint, Haskins is looking for junior center R.J. Bullock to make an impact in his first year playing varsity basketball.

“I think he will be productive as he gets used to the different game coming up from the (junior varsity) level,” the coach said.

The Statesmen are set to open their 2018-19 regular-season schedule Friday when they visit Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School, with the tip-off set for 7 p.m.