With two All-Conference 24 players returning, 10 seniors and a talented transfer from Galax, Carroll County’s boys’ basketball team has the potential to pick up where last year’s team left off at the end of the season.
Although the Cavaliers finished with an 8-15 record a year ago, Carroll County finished strong, winning three of its final five River Ridge District games, including a monumental 47-45 upset of Patrick Henry. All-Conference 24 first-team selection Jordon Combs is gone, but the Cavs return second-team All-Conference 24 picks Garret Haynes and Micah Johnson. Big and athletic guards Caden Hodges and Adam Horton are back, while Galax transfer Cameron Brown could also provide an immediate impact.
“From a talent standpoint we’ve probably got more talent than we’ve had in several years,” Carroll County first-year head coach Tee Jackson said. “But talent is only potential. We have to make it all work and we have to go and play together and see what we can do. I am excited about the year. We have guys with a lot of experience and talent.”
While Carroll will have an abundance of seniors with 10 this year, Haynes and Johnson will be counted on heavily to lead the way. A load in the paint at 6-6, Haynes led the Cavs in blocks last year with 28. He also averaged 7.9 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Jackson said he’s worked hard in the offseason to shoulder more of the load now that Combs has graduated.
“Garret has gotten himself in good shape, worked hard and dropped weight,” Jackson said. “He will hopefully be like last year, a load to handle in post but he’s also been working on his jump shot if teams play off him a little bit. We want him to touch the ball every possession.”
The unquestioned floor leader for Carroll, Johnson returns for his third season as the team’s starting point guard. The Cavs went through an offensive funk last year when an ankle injury forced Johnson to miss three weeks. It was no coincidence that the team got hot late in the year once he returned. Johnson led Carroll in steals (43) and assists (4.1 per game) in 2015-2016. He also averaged 8.3 points per contest.
“Micah is kind of an extension of the coaching staff on the floor. He knows exactly what we want him to do and he takes on a leadership role for us,” Jackson said. “He makes us go, and from a toughness standpoint he sets the tone for the other kids.”
Also back will be a pair of tall, athletic guards in Caden Hodges and Adam Horton. Jackson said they are kind of mirror images of each other in that they both are 6-4 guards that are athletic, can shoot and get to the basket.
“Adam will start for us. He is a junior that played a lot of good minutes for us last year,” Jackson said. “Caden, I don’t know that we have anybody as athletic come through as him in a long time. We went to the Roanoke College team camp in October and he got two dunks in the first game and kind of turned some heads down there.”
Brogan Bowman will be another senior for the Cavaliers. He gave Carroll good minutes off the bench last year as a guard and should see an expanded role this season.
“He’s a super smart player. He really got himself in great shape, don’t think he missed a workout after I started in July,” Jackson said. “He’s a smart player who is not going to make mistakes and he’s a good shooter.”
Brown is an intriguing prospect for the Cavaliers. Transferring to Carroll early in November, Brown is a 6-3 guard who is left handed and a good shooter.
“He may be the best shooter on the team. He understands the game. He’s a very good passer and we are excited to see what he can do,” Jackson said. “I think he can really help us and add a lot to what we are looking at this year. When he was a sophomore I think he hit five threes against us. With Garret at 6-6, Caden and Adam at 6-4, and Cameron at 6-3, that’s a lot of size if we can just play big.”
One of the younger players on the team is also expected to make an impact. Freshman Luke Johnson, Micah’s younger brother, has been moved up to varsity after leading the JV team in scoring a year ago. Also a point guard, Luke Johnson has an impressive work ethic and improved his game drastically over the summer, Jackson said.
“I think he will be able to give us some good minutes and playing against Micah every day in practice will help him for this season and the future,” said Jackson.
Junior Jared Marshall will give the Cavs solid minutes at shooting guard and small forward. Jackson called him probably the team’s best defender.
“He’s really has changed his body in the weight room, really gotten strong and filled that role as a defensive stopper for us,” Jackson said.
Seniors Derek Case and Landon Williams return and give the team added varsity experience and depth in the post. Another pair of seniors, Austin Wolford and Tyler VanCampen, also provide depth and size in the post after not playing as juniors. Junior Jacob Edwards will add depth as a small forward off the bench, while senior Hakeem Finley returns with varsity experience at the two-guard position.
“I feel pretty good about it. We’ve got a bunch of seniors so they have some experience and know what to expect from our district and how tough it is. They know what it takes to win and they got things rolling toward the end of the season. We’re hoping a lot of that experience will carry over this year,” Jackson said. “We are working on a new offensive system, not running as many set plays. They have more freedom. It’s more of a read and react-style offense with some quick hitters we are going to run.”
Joining Jackson on the coaching staff this year will be varsity assistant Connor Lundy, a four-year starter. Ironically, Jackson and Lundy stand at one and two on Carroll’s all-time scoring list. Jay Holderfield has returned after a hiatus to coach Carroll’s JV team along with assistant Russell Smoot. Austin Horton, who played on Carroll’s region championship team in 2013, will also help coach the varsity some when he is at home on breaks from Guilford College, where he is currently a senior.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN