New alignment, same old basketball Bobcats
The advent of a new year presents the temptation to claim that a particular individual is on his way to becoming “a new man.”
Although there’s nothing new about a prominent role for Josh Little on Radford High School’s basketball team, let’s be perfectly clear right off the bat that Little is a changed young man. The most experienced of three Radford High School basketball seniors spent most of the past three seasons as the Bobcats point guard. But now it’s new year, new man, new role. Little spent the first 10 games of the season learning to be an effective off guard. Now that freshman sensation Marcus Finley has been test driven at the point and proved able, the transformation is complete.
As a consequence, Radford is a more complete team. That fact alone is a major indication that high hopes for the second half of the campaign are in order.
“We’ve played well up to this point, but I definitely don’t think we’ve played our best basketball so far,” Little said.
Radford has played well against its usual challenging early-season schedule, winning eight of its first 10. The slate has included all but two games against Group AA teams. The two A peers that Radford faced in the Fort Chiswell tournament over the holiday are both expected to be leading contenders in Region C. Radford thumped Floyd County by 35 points and Grayson County by 26.
Radford entered the Three Rivers District schedule this week with games at Eastern Montgomery on Wednesday and against visiting Auburn on Friday.
The Bobcats lost in the Fort Chiswell tournament final by 10 to undefeated Carroll County, which prompted Radford coach Rick Cormany to tip his hat to the winners while second-guessing himself. A teaching moment to encourage younger members of the team to think on their feet in trying circumstances probably lasted longer than was practical, Cormany indicated on reflection.
No matter. The youngest of the young players who are in the process of adjusting to the speed and competitiveness of the varsity game, freshman Finley, is turning out to be the most advanced. His potential is suggested by the fact that the name of Radford’s all-timer at the one guard — Darris Nichols — came up in a conversation about Finley.
Although the 5-foot-10 Finley doesn’t have some of the physical attributes the taller Nichols did, his basketball thinking processes are similar to Nichols’ at the same age, Cormany said. Numbers provide evidence of Finley’s precocious grasp of running a varsity offense.
“He’s had nine turnovers in 10 games,” Cormany said. “That’s incredible.”
Maybe it helps that Finley has had to compete against Radford’s formidable press in practice. No more brutal and telling a dress rehearsal for a job comes to mind than that.
Finley earned the endorsement of his predecessor Little, who was in office when the Bobcats last won the Division 2 state title in the 2010‑11 season.
“He’s handled things really well,” Little said. “He’s been really steady. He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot. As we go along, he’s getting better, too. I think he’s doing a great job.”
So has Little, who has taken to his new duties as a shooting guard by averaging 12 points a game.
“I’m enjoying this,” he said. “It’s fun to be able to get out and run the lanes, play a little bit, improvise.”
Another big factor for Radford has been the continuing emergence of versatile junior Isaiah Phillips, who scored 19 points in the most recent outing against Carroll County.
“The thing about him is he’s growing up,” Cormany said. “He and Little have definitely been leaders. Phillips has really been impressing me here lately. He’s really starting to get it.”
One more reason for partisans to be excited about Radford basketball is another underclassman who has made enormous strides. Sophomore Nate Jones is on his way to being a major scorer and all-around talent.
Both Jones and Phillips have been good for better than 15 points per game.
As for the Bobcats as a whole, they’ve just been good. For those who have followed them over the years, there’s really no news in that.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1672
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