MMA postgrad hoops reloaded for another national title hunt

Massanutten Military Academy postgraduate basketball coach Chad Myers gives instructions to his team as guard Rasir Bolton, right, looks on during a practice session this week in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK – Chad Myers has led Massanutten Military Academy’s postgraduate boys basketball program to the invitation-only National Prep Championship in each of his three seasons as the Colonels’ head coach. Early indications suggest MMA is reloaded and ready to make another run at a national title in 2017-18.

Myers, who coached a two-year stint in Woodstock from 2011-13 and returned to MMA last season, has had more time to recruit this offseason after restarting the school’s postgraduate hoops program last spring. The result, at least on paper, is a deeper and more talented team than the one Myers led to a 26-6 record last winter.

“This time of year everybody’s kind of looking at everybody’s roster,” Myers said earlier this week, “and all the feedback we’re getting is that we have one of the best teams in the country.”

It’s early, but that talent has already generated success on the court in a pair of exhibition games ahead of the Colonels’ season opener at home today, a 3 p.m. contest against Scotland Sports. MMA beat Virginia Academy, 89-74, on Oct. 18 and picked up a big 84-72 victory over national high school powerhouse Oak Hill Academy on Monday.

As is normally the case in postgrad hoops, MMA’s 17-man roster is filled with players from all over, but the Colonels all agree on one thing.

Mahamadou Diawara dunks the ball during a practice session at MMA this week in Woodstock. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Everybody basically has the same goal, to win a national championship, and knows what it takes to win that,” said guard Tyrese Martin, an Allentown, Pennsylvania native who has already committed to the University of Rhode Island. “Everybody’s basically on the same page, knowing their role and bringing energy and what they have to do to win those games.”

Martin, a 6-foot-6 guard who will start at small forward, Myers said, is one of four Colonels starters who stand 6-6 or taller, a group that also includes shooting guard Miles James (6-foot-6), guard/forward Mekhi Long (6-7) and center Mahamadou Diawara (6-10), a native of Mali, Africa, who provides the Colonels with the true post presence they lacked last season. Long, who hails from Washington, D.C., and Diawara are both high school juniors who could return to MMA again next season.

Point guard Rasir Bolton, a Penn State commit, rounds out the Colonels’ starting five. Myers called the 6-foot-3 Richmond native the best guard MMA has had since Frank Mason III, who went on to play four years at Kansas and was drafted by the Sacramento Kings this past summer.

“I think we’re really athletic, so we can really get out in transition and run,” Myers said. “We can really defend because we can switch almost everything. We can guard a bunch of different positions, so we can press and be active in the full court. We can get in the half court, we can switch a lot of stuff to make it hard on a lot of teams to score. We rebound the ball well. Even though we’re not huge we have a bunch of guys with length and they’re all athletic.”

Myers added the Colonels have shown a knack for sharing the ball and making good decisions in transition. He also said that this year’s team is likely the best defensive team that he’s had.

“We can win games even if we don’t shoot the ball great, which is different than last year (when) we had to really make shots to win games,” Myers said. “This year I think we can win it a lot of different ways and we’ve got a lot of different guys that can contribute. Then we’ve got pretty good depth off the bench. We’ve got nine or 10 guys that already have Division I interest or recruitment, so we’re a lot deeper than we’ve been as well.”

Despite the wealth of talent, the Colonels are still trying to find the remaining pieces of chemistry to tie it all together. The Colonels have been practicing together since they arrived on campus in late August, but have played only two true games together.

“Defensively we’re still working on rotation and stuff like that,” Bolton said, “offense making sure we’re running everything the right way. Sometimes people forget a couple plays, but I mean we just started playing together against other teams, so we’re just working on coming together as a team, really.”

Bolton added that the Colonels’ chemistry is improving “day by day.”

“We’re just getting a feel for each other,” he said, “like maybe you could throw a no-look pass because you know he’s gonna be there backdoor or something like that.”

Saturday’s home game is the first of four to start the season for the Colonels.

The schedule also includes trips to the prestigious National Prep Showcase in New Haven, Connecticut, in November – where they will play Northfield Mount Hermon School (Massachusetts), a perennial National Prep Championship title contender, and New Hampton School (New Hampshire) – and the Marshall County Hoopfest in Kentucky, a game against Putnam Science Academy (Connecticut) in Baltimore, a rivalry matchup with Hargrave Military Academy and two contests against Fork Union Military Academy.

“I think our schedule is actually way tougher than it was last year,” Myers said, “but I did that because obviously I think we’re deeper, better players, all that kind of stuff.”