Sorrells back to lead Generals after breakout junior season

Stonewall's Kaelan Sorrells soars in the lane as East Rockingham's Jaylen McNair looks on during last January's game in Quicksburg.  Rich Cooley/Daily file

Stonewall's Kaelan Sorrells soars in the lane as East Rockingham's Jaylen McNair looks on during last January's game in Quicksburg. Rich Cooley/Daily file

QUICKSBURG – Kaelan Sorrells’ initial foray into organized basketball lasted only a year.

After he picked up the sport as a seventh grader at North Fork Middle School, poor grades and disciplinary problems in and out of the classroom kept Sorrells from suiting up the next season.

As he prepared to begin his freshman year at Stonewall Jackson High School, something finally clicked in Sorrells’ mind – he was supposed to be serving as a role model for his younger brother, Izaiah, and he didn’t like the image his frequent troublemaking was presenting.

“I was like, ‘I can’t let my little brother be like me,'” Sorrells recalled while sitting on the steps outside of Stonewall Jackson’s auxiliary gymnasium on Monday evening.

“I told everybody, ‘I’m done acting the way I am, I’m gonna straighten my life up right here and then.'”

Sorrells returned to the basketball court during his freshman year as a member of Stonewall Jackson’s junior varsity boys basketball team. Two years later, the kid who said he used to get in trouble for “everything” was doing everything on the basketball court for the Generals’ varsity squad.

Sorrells emerged as Stonewall’s most productive player as a junior last season, a stellar campaign that ranked among the coverage area’s best in 2015-16, but one that perhaps was largely overlooked in a season that saw the Generals win just two games.

The 6-foot guard averaged 15.9 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the area and second among public high school boys players. He led the area with 3.5 steals per contest and ranked second in field goal percentage (58 percent), third in free throw percentage (81 percent), fifth in rebounding (7.3 per game) and sixth in assists (3.2 per game).

Sorrells, a first-team all-Conference 44 and second team all-Shenandoah District selection last season, led the Generals in each of those categories. His junior season, he said, was a lesson in confidence, an aspect of his game that received a major boost when he took over the Generals’ offense in their season-opener against Rappahannock County by scoring nine of the team’s final 11 points, including a game-winning 3-point play with less than a second to go in overtime.

“It pushed me going through the season,” Sorrells said of that performance, “so like every once in a while when I was doubting myself I’d think back to what I did and then it’d boost my self-esteem back up.”

Sorrells, who also scored 35 points in a loss at Luray last season (2 points shy of the school’s single-game record, he said), now enters his senior season this winter as the cornerstone of a group of returning starters that includes fellow seniors Dylan Davis and Tyler Patton and juniors Brendan Hoover and Nick Dotson, and has drawn praise from first-year head coach Mike Lenox, who said Sorrells’ presence on the practice court is already making Lenox’s job much easier as the Generals prepare for their season opener at Rappahannock County on Tuesday.

“I can ask him to do something and he’ll do it right the first time,” Lenox said. “He asks questions when he doesn’t understand what we’re doing. He’s a hard worker every day and he comes pretty prepared.”

Lenox, who is also the school’s baseball coach, is Stonewall’s third different basketball coach in as many seasons, meaning the Generals are once again learning new offensive and defensive schemes.

Lenox said Stonewall will play primarily man-to-man defense and operate out of set offensive plays, but he added that he wants the Generals to have the freedom to use their athletic ability to improvise with cuts and flashes within those sets.

“We’re gonna do all sorts of different things, give them different looks … but I just want them to use their abilities and not constrict them to certain things,” Lenox said.

“That’s kind of how I played, how I was coached, and at this level that’s what I’ve seen be successful, especially when you’re not super, super tall and you just can’t go drop it in the post and all that. You’ve gotta do a lot of guard play and a lot of movement within the guard play.”

That style sits well with Sorrells, who thrives when he’s able to slash to the basket, which usually ends with him finishing around the rim or finding the open man after drawing the defense in.

“When I’m able to attack that’s when I’m at my best,” Sorrells said.

Stonewall, which operated with only eight players for most of last season, has 11 players on this year’s roster, and Sorrells said the Generals have been practicing with more intensity than they did a year ago.

With added depth, the next step for the Generals may be clearing the mental hurdle that has risen after winning just three games combined over the last two seasons.

“If we can mentally push ourselves past that, saying we can do better than what we have been the last few years, I feel like we can do it,” Sorrells said. “But we also have players that don’t believe that we can, so if we can encourage them to believe that we can do it, we can do it.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com.

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