By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Longtime Sherando boys basketball coach Garland Williams knew he had a special player in Grant Golden last season, but Williams also knew that putting Golden on the varsity team as a freshman might hinder Golden's development.
Williams didn't expect Golden to see much playing time at the varsity level his freshman season, so he decided to keep Golden on the JV team last season in order to guarantee him more court time.
Golden did eventual join the varsity team late last season, but the decision to play it slow with the 6-foot-7 forward/center has paid off for the Warriors.
"We thought that maybe he could possibly be a varsity player last year but we had a lot of quick guys and we looked at how much he would play, and we thought JV would be better," Williams said. "He did a lot of stuff on his own as far as the AAU circuit and playing, and he's come back and he's been a strong player for us."
This season, Golden has been a problem for opposing defenses, as the sophomore entered this week averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game.
In three games last week, Golden, The Northern Virginia Daily's Male Athlete of the Week for the week of Jan. 5-11, averaged 23.3 points per game and helped lead Sherando to two big wins over Northwestern District rivals.
Against Millbrook on Jan. 8, Golden tallied 21 points and six rebounds as the Warriors rolled to a 72-52 win over the Pioneers.
Golden followed up that performance two days later by erupting for a career-high 33 points in the Warriors' 67-33 rout of Skyline. The sophomore scored 18 of those points in the third quarter alone, and the combination of Golden and 6-foot-8 teammate Jeremiah Curtis proved to be a huge advantage for Sherando.
"The first half we were pounding it inside and me and Jeremiah were getting easy layups. We kind of veered away from it a little bit, but at halftime coach told us let's keep going inside because we had a big height advantage," Golden said. "The guards kept giving it to me and I just kept getting layups."
Golden serves as an imposing presence in the paint for the Warriors, but it was his ability to run the floor that made the biggest impact for Sherando against Skyline. Williams said most of Golden's points came directly from the sophomore converting baskets in transition.
"It's an easy way to get layups if we all run the floor and we all run our lanes," Golden said. "If we beat the team down the floor we can get easy layups and easy layups lead to wins."
Golden, who plays AAU basketball for Chantilly-based Virginia Elite, has received significant interest from various colleges, and he has already received a scholarship offer from James Madison University.
But Williams said that the sophomore still has plenty of work to do over his high school career, and Golden has continued to work hard to improve his game.
"He has offers, but he still has a lot of growing to do dealing with his offensive skills and his defensive skills," Williams said. "Our thing as a coach is to try to fine-tune those skills as much as possible so that no matter where he goes he's able to contribute.
"He's a young guy being very coachable," Williams added. "He's willing to work to better his game, and that's only going to help him wherever he goes."
Sherando has hit a rough patch of late, as the Warriors (3-6, 2-0 Northwestern) have lost their last three games, including a 20-point loss last Saturday to Washington (W.Va.) in which Golden added 16 points and six rebounds.
The Warriors lost in overtime to Broadway on Monday, and fell just short of topping unbeaten Spotswood in a 72-71 loss on Tuesday.
"We've been struggling a little bit, but we're going to be alright," Golden said. "We've got a lot of games packed into one week ... but we're going to keep practicing hard and come out trying to get a win each game."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD