Warren County's Ricky Dodson prepares to make a move inside the basket during the Wildcats' Jan. 7 game against Fauquier. The 6-foot-6 senior is starting for the Wildcats and making an impact this season.

FRONT ROYAL - Ricky Dodson got a late start in basketball, but he’s learned and improved quickly.

The Warren County senior didn’t start seriously playing basketball until two years ago. He said he played in Warren County Parks and Recreation when he was really young but then stopped playing. It’s a decision he said he wishes he could change.

“I wish I would have really started getting into it when I was playing Parks and Rec,” Dodson said. “I should have played (Amateur Athletic Union basketball) and started taking it seriously because now it’s a lot more fun. I took it for granted when I was younger.”

The 6-foot-6 Dodson decided to give basketball a try again in his sophomore year and made the varsity team.

He said that season was a real learning experience.

“It was rough,” Dodson said. “We had some real good players that helped me a lot.”

Dodson said he learned a lot from fellow post players Brendan McMackin, a 2017 Warren County graduate and Hunter Wines, a 2018 Warren County graduate.

Dodson didn’t see a lot of playing time either of the last two years, but this year he’s a starter. He said the last two years has helped prepare him for this season.

“The last two years was like practice for (this year),” Dodson said. “It got me used to the speed of the game for the varsity level. It helped a lot.”

The biggest improvement Dodson has made in the offseason has been his mobility. Dodson, who also plays football, said he began playing AAU a few years ago which helped him improve in basketball.

Dodson has made an impact on the team this season, and coach John Kelly said Dodson is averaging around 8-10 points per game.

“I think he’s the same way he was last year, but he’s about 30 pounds lighter because he put in the time in football,” Kelly said. “His muscle is there and he’s more mobile. He can do so many more things. He has good hands. He’s a very smart player.”

Dodson said the conditioning for both football and basketball are very different, but both help keep him in shape and have made a big difference this year.

Kelly said Dodson’s improved mobility makes a big difference for the team this season.

“With his mobility, he can step out and play defense,” Kelly said. “He just doesn’t sit in the middle. He can step out and guard now and he’s not scared to do that. He worked on his jump shot a lot. So that’s become a big strength of his, too.”

Dodson said he enjoys passing even more than scoring and would rather see a teammate score rather than score himself.

One of Dodson’s favorite parts of the game is blocking shots and he said the reaction from teammates and the crowd is the best part.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Dodson said of blocking shots. “The crowd cheers you. Your teammates get you hyped, too. They start yelling for you. It definitely makes the whole team want to play better defense, too. It’s a momentum swing.”

Kelly said Dodson is a great leader for the team.

“He does a lot of stuff on the court, on the bench, to encourage the younger players around him,” Kelly said. “That’s maybe his best strength, besides what he can do athletically, because of the leader that he is. It’s wonderful to see.”

Warren County has seven sophomores on the team this season and Dodson said he understands what those players are going through and wants to help them.

“I try to help the younger guys because I’ve been in their shoes - being a sophomore on varsity,” Dodson said. “It’s a lot different. I’m trying to help them a lot more. I try to talk to them, let them know, what’s going on because it's their first time experiencing something like this.”

The Wildcats are off to a 5-6 start this season, having lost two games in a row. Dodson said that the team needs to come together more and then he thinks they will improve and have success.

Next year Dodson said he wants to play football in college and he’s still looking to see which college might be the best fit for him. But for the winter season, his focus is on finishing out his short basketball career.

Dodson said being a senior this year makes him want to perform even better this year.

“It definitely pushes you, because you don’t want it to be your last game,” Dodson said. “That’s what (Warren County football) coach (Brian) Bush said for football. You never know when you’re going to step off this field and never walk back on it again. I’m trying to push myself as hard as I can each and every game and every practice.”

Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at tkeeler@nvdaily.com