QUICKSBURG – Stonewall Jackson’s boys basketball team had a productive offseason and now the Generals are hoping that carries over into the season.
The Generals return most of their team from last year’s squad and played together a good bit in the offseason. Stonewall Jackson boys basketball coach Jim Sanders said the team went to a team camp over the summer for the first time in a number of years and played in a fall league as well. They also participated in open gyms at the school throughout the summer.
“In the past, a lot of our guys played basketball and then didn’t play basketball again until the following season,” Sanders said on Wednesday. “That makes it really tough to be really good and be competitive with people. So we’ve had a lot of opportunities to get out there and play, which they’ve done. I can’t really ask any more of them than that.”
Stonewall Jackson senior point guard Tucker Dorman said the team has become closer due to playing together so much in the offseason.
“We’ve really improved on playing ball together as a team,” Dorman said. “Our chemistry has improved. We’ve played a lot together over the summer. Coach (Sanders) gave us many opportunities to get in the gym. We went to camps, we started to all get closer.”
Dorman is one of the top returners on the squad. Last year, he averaged 3.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game. Stonewall Jackson also returns 6-foot forward Christian Hess (3.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals and a 41.4 shooting percentage) and 5-foot-10 senior guard Michael Stout (1.4 assists, 1.6 steals and a 30.8 3-point percentage). Tyler Dellinger, a 6-foot-1 senior forward, and 5-foot-6 sophomore Kadin Hitt (36.1 3-point percentage) are also key returners.
With so many players returning, Dellinger said that practices went more smoothly to start the preseason.
“We didn’t have to take as much time going over stuff,” Dellinger said. “It’s like people this year knew what they were doing and coach Sanders got everybody fresh and back into place.”
Sanders said that one thing that helped was having the extra week of practice before the season started. The last two years the Generals made the regional football playoffs, which kept the full basketball team from practicing in the first week of preseason.
“It’s been really a blessing for us because we’ve been able to do a lot of the base things that we’ve been needing to do,” Sanders said.
The Generals have one freshman (Michael Spaur), three sophomores, three juniors and seven seniors. Sanders said the seniors have been a solid group and he hopes they can do good things this season. It is Sanders’ third season at Stonewall Jackson and he said that this is the first group that he has been able to coach for more than one or two years.
“They’re a good bunch of guys,” Sanders said. “I’ve been around them for a couple years, some of them. Unfortunately this is it, but it’s an opportunity for them to make a little bit of a statement in terms of how our expectations are and how we want to do things here. ...This year they get to sort of make their mark. We’ll see what that mark is.”
The Generals went 3-20 last year, but Sanders said he isn’t worried about how many games his team wins.
“Everybody wants to win, but I’m really more interested in the guys being in it together and just trying to accomplish things together,” Sanders said. “That means more to me really than winning because I think the winning will take care of itself.”
The Generals move up from Class 1 to Class 2 this season and from the Shenandoah to the Bull Run District. Dellinger said the team is looking forward to the new district, although Luray, Page County and East Rockingham have also moved from the Shenandoah to the Bull Run.
“I think we’re all excited about it, playing new teams, seeing some old faces coming with us,” Dellinger said. “But it’s going to be a challenging district, especially with a couple state teams coming back.”
Stonewall Jackson opens the regular season on Dec. 3 in a tournament at William Monroe.
Dorman said for the seniors this is one last year to have success as a team.
“It’s exciting to be (a senior),” he said. “Everything I’ve worked for, everything the team’s worked for over all the years has led up to this moment. This is supposed to be our season.”