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Taking charge: Bright’s defense, leadership key for Central this season

Central's Varsey Bright floats through the lane for a shot against Madison County on Jan. 5 in Woodstock. Bright's versatility has helped lead the Falcons to the Class 2 state tournament. Rich Cooley/Daily

WOODSTOCK — Varsey Bright loves to take charges.

The Central senior guard isn’t afraid to put his body on the line for his team, and in fact, he enjoys it.

“It feels great,” Bright said of taking charges. “In a big game, the crowd’s up. My teammates are there helping me up. And we get the ball – another possession for us to take advantage of the game.”

Bright’s defensive skills were on full display in Central’s 71-68 loss to defending state champion Robert E. Lee on Saturday. He took several charges, which helped give the Falcons momentum in a hard-fought Region 2B boys basketball final.

Central coach Jeff Whittle said it’s hard to find players today who are willing to do what Bright does.

“There’s not a lot of kids these days that want to play defense or sacrifice their body,” Whittle said. “They want to maybe try to block a shot, whereas if you move your feet and get in position, which he does, he’s got quick feet, you can get a charge. He’s willing to risk his body and take a charge.”

Bright, who played for Central as a sophomore – mostly coming off the bench, said he was used for his defense and rebounding that season.

Last year he transferred to Moorefield High School in West Virginia, where he said he only played for half of the basketball season before transferring again to a school in Maryland.

Bright had a very strong season with Moorefield, including scoring 31 points against Strasburg on Dec. 21, 2016. He said that he not only became more of a scorer at Moorefield but also a leader.

“Moorefield had been struggling a little bit, and I helped them a lot,” Bright said of last season. “The coach (Scott Stutler) gave me the opportunity to be a leader. As a junior, I was a leader to all guys, not just underclassmen, to seniors also. I scored pretty well and I had a lot of guys that could score on the team.”

Whittle said that Bright’s vocal leadership has been very important to the team this season.

“Whether it’s prior to the game or practices, halftime, he’s very vocal and getting everyone on the same page,” Whittle said. “(Central assistant) Coach (Jon) Cole and coach (Ryan) Rutz and all of us just appreciate just having him this year, because he’s like a second coach. And you need some of your senior leadership to be vocal, instead of always leading by example. You need someone to get on a kid for not going hard and stuff like that.”

Whittle, in his second year as coach at Central, said the biggest thing that surprised him about Bright was his ability to shoot 3-pointers.

Bright is shooting 37.2 percent (32-for-86) from 3-point range, just one of the aspects that he added to his game over the last couple seasons.

He said that his game is much different than when he was at Central two years ago.

“I told the guys when I came back they didn’t recognize me as a basketball player, because I had a different mentality of like scoring, doing everything, being a leader, dribbling,” he said. “I didn’t have that when I was here before. So I grew into it.”

Bright, whose versatility has been big for the Falcons this season, has done a little bit of everything for his squad. He is averaging 11.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Falcons, and shooting 78.7 percent (70-for-89) from the free-throw line.

Whittle said Bright is a tremendous talent and brings a lot to what they have, adding “I really appreciate having him on this team. He’s a big plus. We wouldn’t be where we are without him.”

The Falcons (23-4) are in the state tournament for the first time since 2002. They play Goochland at Fluvanna High School in the Class 2 state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday.

Bright said it’s been an amazing season, and being a senior makes it even more special.

“A lot of the seniors are emotional because you couldn’t ask for any better season than this – going this far into the state tournament,” he said.