By Tommy Keeler Jr.
STEPHENS CITY -- Grant Golden learned some valuable lessons last season.
After being moved up to the varsity basketball level as a freshman late last season, the Sherando 6-foot-7 forward/center quickly realized how important the weight room can be.
"I realized how strong kids were, and I never really thought the weight room was a big deal," Golden said. "So I lifted pretty much every day during the offseason trying to get stronger."
Golden grew a few more inches in the offseason, and got bigger and stronger and became a better player.
His hard work paid off big dividends in the summer and earned him a scholarship offer from James Madison University in mid-July.
Golden plays Amateur Athletic Union basketball for Virginia Elite, based out of Chantilly. His team, which also includes Handley standouts Cameron Jackson and Solomon Finley, was playing in Pennsylvania when JMU men's basketball coach Matt Brady was in attendance.
"[JMU] came up to the tournament in Philadelphia and watched me play," Golden said. "I had 35 points and 11 rebounds that game, and then the next week coach Brady called me and told me they'd like to offer me. It was exciting."
Golden said his mom, a JMU graduate, was even more excited than he was.
"She was really excited. She was almost crying in the car," Golden said. "She was really excited and happy for me. She was just glad that all my hard work had finally paid off.
"It's a big relief knowing that education, as long as I don't mess up, is paid for."
Golden said he's received attention from other schools such as the University of Virginia, George Mason, Holy Cross and Winthrop.
Golden said he plans to wait until his senior year to make his final decision.
Golden, who said he is "almost 6-foot-8," has played basketball from an early age, and said he's always been tall.
He said he began working with Erick Green at Erick Green Athletics several years ago and his game has grown since then.
"We just work on all kinds of things -- shooting, he's helped me out on my ball handling," Golden said.
Despite being tall, Golden has worked a lot on being able to play like a guard and has played at guard some in AAU.
Golden moved up to varsity last season after Demontay Harrison transferred to Texas midway through the season. Sherando coach Garland Williams brought Golden up and he played some solid minutes for the Warriors.
Even though Golden can shoot jumpers, Williams said he still needs him to play inside for Sherando.
"We said hey, you're a big guy, so you may not have a lot of weight, but we still we need for him to rebound," Williams said. "We tell him, 'You got to rebound. We know you like to shoot jumpers, but you still have to rebound. I don't know where the college guys are saying you're going to play, but right now we need for you at 6-7, long reach and so forth, you're going to have the advantage right there.'
"Whether you score inside or outside, scoring is scoring."
Golden will be joined in the frontcourt this season by 6-foot-7 senior Jeremiah Curtis. The duo should be quite a force inside the paint for the Warriors. Curtis was in Sherando's program two years ago, but transferred to Middleburg Academy last year and is now back with the Warriors.
Golden said it's nice to have someone on the team who is as tall is he is.
Sherando's start to the season has been delayed with the football team still in the playoffs. The Warriors won't play their first game until sometime after the football team is done.
While his future may be set, Golden said he knows he has a lot to work on and a bright high school career still ahead of him.
Golden said he wants to keep improving his ball handling and make his 3-point shot better.
"I can shoot [3-pointers] now, it's just some nights I'm off and some nights I'm not," Golden said. "I just want to make it consistent every night."
The most important thing for Golden now is to help the Warriors continue their winning ways. Sherando has had a solid program for years, but lost in the regional tournament last year to Frederick County rival Millbrook.
Golden said he thinks the Warriors can have a very good season.
"I feel like we can be pretty good," Golden said. "We just have to work hard. And we gotta play as a team, and we gotta play hard every night. I think if we can do that, then I think we can be a good team."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd