By Brad Fauber
STRASBURG -- Arkell Goring was shocked when he learned that his name wouldn't be in the starting five when Strasburg opened the 2012-13 season against county rival Stonewall Jackson on Nov. 28.
Goring, a Brooklyn native and a new face in the Strasburg boys basketball program, only has a couple of years of basketball experience under his belt, but he was accustomed to being a starter during his short basketball career.
However, with a handful of proven players returning from last year's squad, longtime Rams coach Millson French opted to use Goring off the bench as a sixth man. After the initial surprise of French's decision wore off, Goring realized the opportunity set before him, and the junior has fully embraced his new role.
"At first I was kind of funny about it because I'm not used to coming off the bench," Goring said. "Most of the teams I've been on, I was a starter. But then as I grew into it, seeing that I could be that spark off the bench and help my team win, I got used to it and I actually like it."
Goring, a 5-foot-11 guard, has played in every game this season for the Rams, who are 13-1 and off to their best start in at least 12 seasons. Through Strasburg's first 11 games, Goring averaged 8.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per contest. He also averaged 1.9 steals and 1.9 assists per game.
Goring, who is typically one of the first players to come off the bench for Strasburg, said it wasn't until the Rams' fifth game of the season -- a 61-56 loss to Bull Run District rival William Monroe on Dec. 11 -- that he came to realize the importance of his role.
In that game, Goring came off the bench in the first quarter and immediately sparked a Strasburg rally that erased a large deficit and prevented the Rams from falling in an early hole.
French said it's Goring's ability to create opportunities with the basketball that makes him a dangerous weapon in the Rams' offense.
"He gives us a big lift offensively because of his ability to create shots for others players, and himself," French said. "That's his strength. He's very difficult to keep in front of you, and that brings an added dimension to us offensively that we haven't had in previous years."
Goring's ability to slash into the middle of defenses provides Strasburg with a very dangerous offensive attack.
Teammates Tommy Caison (10.5 points per game), Tyler Hott (10.0 ppg.) and Tyler Doman (7.7 ppg.) all have the ability to knock down 3-pointers from anywhere on the court, and Jonathan Kloosterman -- who averaged a double-double with 15.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per game through 11 contests -- is a force inside. Goring takes pride in being the player who opens up opportunities for his teammates to knock down shots.
"I think it's pretty good because I can drive and get down low," Goring said. "Most guys try to clamp in on me, so they bring another man's defender on me and it either opens it up for a 3 or for an easy dish down low to Jonathan, or I can deliver."
French said that Goring's willingness to look for the open man has had a psychological effect on his team, as well.
"I think what is phenomenal is his unselfishness. Unselfishness breeds unselfishness," French said. "When you have that, then other guys get better at pitching the ball ahead and making the extra pass. It gets contagious."
Goring, the third youngest of 12 children, said his aggressive play style comes from playing basketball against his older brothers.
Goring said he began playing basketball about three years ago when a knee injury prevented him from playing football. Goring said he quickly learned the ins and outs of basketball, and competing against his brothers helped him get to where he is now.
Speed is arguably Goring's best asset, and his quickness is what really caught the eye of French and the rest of the Rams' coaching staff when the first several days of practice got underway in early November.
"We learned in the first couple days of practice, we were like, 'Wow, nobody can stay in front of him,' which is pretty amazing," French said. "He's not the greatest ball-handler in the world, but he's just so quick and he's got some jukes and other moves he can do to help himself get free."
Strasburg starts the second half of its district schedule on Wednesday when it travels to William Monroe (12-3, 7-0 Bull Run). The Rams, currently 6-1 and in second place in the Bull Run, will be looking to avenge their only loss of the season.
The Rams have seven games left -- all in the district -- and Goring will continue to contribute, no matter the role.
"It pushes harder, because I want to start. But I like this role," Goring said. "I get big minutes coming off the bench in this role and it still feels like I'm still a big part of this team and that I do a lot to help this team win."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com