Boys basketball fired up for new season

Published 12:29 pm Tuesday, November 21, 2023

By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

A year ago at this time, the Davie boys basketball team was a ghost in the Central Piedmont Conference landscape. The War Eagles had graduated nine seniors and returned zero starters.

But new coach Josh Pittman flashed a golden touch, the War Eagles made noise in the CPC and they ascended to unexpected heights at 17-9 overall and 7-7 in the league. They scratched and clawed to the most wins in four years – and four more than the previous year – and reached the 4-A playoffs.

Hayden Williams (10 points per game) and Burke Rosenbaum (6.4) are gone, but a host of known quantities are back, including tentpoles like Jackson Powers, Coleman Lawhon and Ethan Ratledge. Thus there’s hope that Davie is on its way to making something special happen in 2023-24.

Are you fired up yet or are you fired up yet?

“Nov. 21 can’t get here fast enough,” Pittman said last week. “We started working in the spring. I’m a day-by-day, game-by-game type guy. I’ve got big expectations, but at the same time last year nobody expected us to be in it. Next thing you know, at the blink of an eye, you’re in the game. This year everybody has their eyes open and they expect you to be there, so their preparation will be different toward you and we have to match that preparation because there’s no more sneaking up.”

The 6-6 Powers is a terrific player. As a sophomore, he was No. 1 in scoring (14.7), rebounding (13.4) and blocked shots (2.3). He doesn’t do a lot of talking; he’s just one of those guys who brings his hard hat every day and goes to work.

“Jackson’s been in the weight room a little bit more, he has leaned down and he’s become a little bit more athletic,” Pittman said. “I believe he’s going to have a great year, if it’s in God’s plans. He puts the work in and he’s very coachable. He’s dedicated. You’re going to have to keep him on your radar because if you sleep on him, he’ll end up with a double-double.”

Lawhon, the 6-1 point guard, was second in points (12.8), first in steals (3.7) and third in rebounding (5.6). He’s ready to roll as a senior.

“I think Coleman’s going to really surprise a lot of people with the way his game has developed – not only the basketball aspect, but his maturity, his attitude and his approach to the game,” Pittman said. “I think he’s leaps and bounds from where he was last year. In the summer he shined in some big-time moments against some big-time point guards, so I think the sky is the limit for him if he stays composed and leads.”

The 6-4 Ratledge is back as a senior after being a significant contributor last year with 6.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals.

“I need Ethan to be more aggressive this year, because he is always one of your top three players,” Pittman said. “It’s just up to Ethan when he decides he wants to be aggressive. He knows how to make the right decisions; he just has to be aggressive and make them. I believe easily he can be a 10-15 point player, it’s just up to him to take that step.”

Pittman could throw a big lineup at opponents if he puts Lawhon, Gavin Williams, Ratledge, Elliott Erlandsson (6-4) and Powers on the floor together. Williams is a 6-7 wing who started his high school career at Davie, attended Calvary last year and decided to return to Davie for his junior year.

“Gavin has been a two guard for us,” he said. “He has a nice mid-range, he’s crafty enough around the basket and his handle is decent.”

Erlandsson is a junior who made an instant impact when he was pulled up from jayvee. In nine varsity games, he averaged 3.5 points and 4.7 rebounds.

“It’s exciting because we can play different styles,” he said. “Elliott’s a stretch-four. If we can get him to put the ball on the floor a little bit more, that will open up his game more. I think he’ll shine in that role. They’re going to be on alert for him.”

Junior guard Braddock Coleman (3.7 ppg, 2 rebounds, 1.3 steals) and sophomore guard Gavin Reese contributed last year as youngsters. Adam Brown, Cam Owens and Ethan Driver are up from the JV. And don’t forget about Landon King, who is back after missing his entire sophomore year with a horrific football knee injury.

“I would not mind starting out with five bigs and making a team adjust to us,” he said. “Then we can flip back and then you’re talking about Gavin (Reese) or Braddock or Landon. Ethan and Braddock are a little rusty (after playing football), but I think they will adjust quickly because they’re quick-learning kids and they’re dedicated. When you’re quick and you’re dedicated, you can go play two sports and shine and be good to go when it’s time to flip over.

“Landon is getting his legs back under him. He can defend positions 1-3. He’s mentally strong and he’s athletic. He’s like a wildcard. When you talk about dog players, he’s one of those guys we like to run a lot of trick defenses with. I can say to Landon: ‘He doesn’t touch it.’ Landon will do that. On the other end, he is crafty and he can score. He can get downhill and get buckets. He still not quite 100 percent. We’re going to take our time with him because I want him to finish the year on two with 10 toes down, so he can go into his senior year confident and feel good about his leg holding up.

“Adam has been a pleasant surprise. He had a good summer, and he continues to work and shine.”

Erlandsson (13.4), Driver (11.5), Owens (10.6) and Brown (10.1) were all double-figure scorers for the JV. Owens, though, has been slowed by a hurt ankle.

“Cam’s out two more weeks because he turned his ankle real bad and they put him in a boot for three weeks,” Pittman said. “He probably won’t be cleared to play until the second week of December,  and then we’ll go from there. I’m what they call a practice coach. If you have one of those weeks where you’re locked in and ready to play and you’re doing everything right, you’re going to get a chance and you have to take it advantage of those opportunities.”

In last year’s CPC race, Mt. Tabor ran away with first at 14-0, but it was a free-for-all from second through fifth, with West Forsyth/East Forsyth tied at 10-4, Reagan at 8-6 and Davie at 7-7.

The 2023-24 race should be extremely entertaining. There’s no telling which one will escape with the crown.

“The thing with us being in a conference with Forsyth County, you never know who is going to be where,” Pittman said. “I’ve already heard of kids from Reynolds going to West. I’ve heard of kids from out of wherever going to Tabor. I’ve heard of kids from QEA (Quality Education Academy) and other schools going to East. Tabor will be pretty good. East, West and Reagan will be good. I think Parkland has improved. I think Reynolds got a couple new pieces, so I think it’s going to be a tough conference.  You get to see how your coaching works, how your style works, how your players work and respond, and you hope for the best.”

Notes: Pittman is assisted again by Will Tibbs and JV head coach Tracey Arnold. … The War Eagles, who finished third, fifth and fifth the past three years, are searching for their first CPC title since 2019, which is also the last time they advanced past the first round of the playoffs.