2016-17 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year: Stonewall’s Lenox makes strides in turning program around
QUICKSBURG — First-year boys basketball coach Mike Lenox wasn’t sure what to expect from his team this season, so he decided to use that to his advantage.
The Stonewall Jackson coach had a mix of returning players and new players coming off a season in which the Generals won only two games. This season the Generals won 10 games and were the No. 2 seed in the Conference 44 tournament and hosted a playoff game for the first time in numerous years.
“I don’t know how many expectations we had,” Lenox said. “I think it was a lot of unknowns. And I kind of used that to help motivate them, especially considering the situation of last year, coming in with new kids. I used that to fuel them to work hard.”
Lenox, The Northern Virginia Daily’s 2016-17 Boys Basketball Coach of the Year, is starting his sixth season as the school’s baseball head coach. He had a lot of baseball players on the basketball team, and he said he thinks it helped that the players already knew him and what to expect from him.
He said it also helped that the players got along with each other.
“I think ultimately it just came down to these guys were friends one-through-11,” Lenox said. “And they kind of bought into what we were doing and they trusted each other and what they wanted to do.”
Lenox said that it also helped that his assistant coach Jeremy Knight was the junior varsity head coach and assists coach the year before under former head coach David Fowler.
Knight is also the head JV baseball coach, so he and Lenox know each other very well.
“We were on the same page every day,” Lenox said. “Him telling me things on the bench, this and that. I think when we would split up into individual work we were getting the same type of intensity and help from him that it gelled together well.”
Things didn’t start off well for the Generals as they lost their opener to Rappahannock County, the only team they had defeated last year.
Lenox said he could see the players thinking they might be in for another long season. The team started to get on a roll after that loss.
Stonewall Jackson beat Shenandoah County rival Strasburg and then avenged the Rappahannock County loss. The Generals followed that up with another victory over Strasburg and then with a win over yet another Shenandoah County rival Central.
“I think they started believing that we had the ability to win basketball games,” Lenox said. “Central ended up being a really good team this year towards the end. They had some kids that could play.”
The Generals then entered the tough Shenandoah District schedule. They took some losses, but unlike the last few seasons they were also able to pull out some victories.
Stonewall Jackson rallied to beat Wilson Memorial for its first district win, and Lenox said that gave the team even more confidence.
They ended up winning six district contests, just finishing short of .500 and Lenox said they lost some close games they could have won.
Stonewall Jackson lost in the Conference 44 tournament semifinals with a regional berth on the line to Riverheads. The Generals defeated the Gladiators twice during the regular season, but Lenox said it was a learning experience for the team.
“I think it was a little bit of not being there before and understanding the intensity that it takes. That the game is different now,” Lenox said. “People always talk about oh it’s a playoff game and if you’ve never really been there you don’t understand the magnitude of what it means.”
The Generals were led by junior Nick Dotson, who averaged 17.5 points per game. Lenox said that Kaelan Sorrells was also a big part of the team’s success.
He said that many teams were focused on Sorrells, which helped open things up for Dotson.
Lenox said part of the team’s success was that they had five players who could score.
“(Brendan) Hoover and (Dylan) Davis they can knock down shots as well,” Lenox said. “I think on the court we had five guys that could score. (Brett) Jones could score. So they had to watch him. So it wasn’t just we’re going to key on these two guys. I think we were a well-rounded team in that aspect.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or firstname.lastname@example.org