FRONT ROYAL — Expectations are a little different this season at Skyline.
The Hawks have a new boys basketball coach, a few new players, plenty of athleticism and high hopes for a potentially promising season.
“We have expectations of at least trying to win anywhere from 16 to 18 games,” Skyline first-year coach Harold Chunn said. “We want to be better than last year’s team. We want to try to keep the continuity together, the team work and everything. It’s actually a good group of kids. They like being together. They actually love being in the gym.”
Skyline has started the season with wins over Rappahannock County (73-42) and Sherando (60-57).
The Hawks (2-0) have plenty of athleticism led by junior point guard Mason Schmitz. Last year Schmitz split time with 2019 Skyline graduate Ty Clingerman, but this season Schmitz will be the main point guard and he said he enjoys the role.
“I like setting up everything,” Schmitz said. “I can control the game a little bit — slow it down or speed it up. I like having the ball in my hands.”
Last year Schmitz averaged 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game.
The Hawks lost some key players to graduation as Clingerman and his classmate Dylan Allison combined for 24.6 points per game. However, the Hawks have added some pieces to the team this season.
Junior Marion ‘Budder’ Haley transferred from Warren County this year and he led the Wildcats in scoring before being sidelined by an injury. Haley has had a combined 22 points in Skyline’s first two games.
Freshman guard Zackary Diggs has also been solid in his first two varsity games and Chunn said he has been pleased with what he’s seen from Diggs this season.
“He doesn’t play like a freshman,” Chunn said of Diggs. “He loves being out on the floor.”
The Hawks will also be helped by the return of 6-foot-4 sophomore Marlon Jackson, who missed most of last season due to injury.
Another key cog inside for the Hawks will be 6-foot-4 junior Lamar Schmitz, who Chunn said is a good ball handler for his size.
“He can handle the ball as a big,” Chunn said of Lamar Schmitz. “That’s something that we work on also in practice — my bigs handling the ball in pressure situations where my guards are manned up somehow and I’m like ‘you got to bring the ball up.’ …He’s actually a pretty good passer for a post player. That’s why I like him in the high post.”
Senior Jayden Norwood returns from last season when he led the team with 5.7 rebounds per game. Chunn said Norwood needs to be a senior leader for the team. Skyline junior Ethan Caperton also returns this season and should be an asset for the squad.
Chunn said junior guard Chad Sears is just returning from injury and should give the Hawks’ depth at the guard spot. Junior Chris Mills could also give the team some valuable minutes off the bench this season.
The Hawks have four seniors — Norwood, Benjamin Mandiak, Andre Deville and Nicholas Heberle, who is expected to miss most of the season due to a wrist injury.
With the depth that the Hawks have, Mason Schmitz said he feels confident in anybody who is on the floor.
“I feel pretty confident in having four other players out there on the court with me that can take care of the ball and put the ball in the bucket,” he said. “I think this season we’re going to do great, better than last year for sure.”
The Hawks went 10-12 last season and missed making the Region 3B tourney. This season every team is automatically in the regional tournament.
Skyline plays at Millbrook today.
Chunn said that he just has the title of head coach, but he wants all his assistant coaches to play big roles in the coaching and to work together as a team. All of Skyline’s assistant coaches, Stephen Rinker, Brandon Walters, Andrew Thorne and Ryan Dyke, have played at either Skyline or Warren County in the past.
“We do things in practice where they’ll run something, I’ll run something, another one will run something,” Chunn said. “I think the players see that we’re working as a team and so it’s like ‘OK we’re going to do this together.’ And I told them ‘we’re all together.’”